News (USA)

Salt Lake City’s first openly gay mayor sworn into office

SALT LAKE CITY — Jackie Biskupski was sworn in Monday as Salt Lake City’s first openly gay mayor, a landmark the former state lawmaker acknowledged shortly after taking the oath of office.

Biskupski, 49, said the historic moment should not be taken lightly, and noted great strides have been made for LGBT people in the state.

“I know that we have work to do still. And it is work that I take seriously,” she told reporters. “But I am a firm believer that in order for true equality to exist for anyone, we must pursue it for everyone, and that is a goal of mine.”

In a speech on the steps of the city-county building after being sworn in, Biskupski cited a gay rights battle in Utah’s capital city two decades ago that spurred her to enter politics.

After the city’s East High School formed the state’s first gay-straight alliance club in 1995, the Salt Lake City School District banned all noncurricular clubs to try to block it. The district reversed its decision several years later after lawsuits and protests.

“That sparked in me a responsibility to my own community,” Biskupski said Monday.

Biskupski said that when she became Utah’s first openly gay lawmaker in 1998, she found common ground to work with people with different ideologies and cultures. She struck a similar note in her speech, pivoting to air quality and economic development. She has said she plans to work on both issues with the conservative, Salt Lake City-based Mormon church.

Her ascension to the mayor’s office comes on the heels of new rules by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints targeting gay members and their children. The new policy, which prompted widespread backlash, bans baptisms for children of gay parents until the kids turn 18 and disavow same-sex relationships.

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