Former lawmaker Jackie Biskupski has become the first openly gay mayor of Salt Lake City, the capital of the conservative state, Utah.
The victory marks another milestone for LGBT people in Utah who have made major strides in recent years.
Today is not just about making history. It is about people. It is about affecting change.”
Her supporters cheered when the results were read at an elections canvass meeting.
Two-term incumbent Ralph Becker showed no reaction and later congratulated Biskupski and vowed to work with her to ensure a smooth transition.
Official election results showed Biskupski won 52 percent of the votes to defeat Becker.
Talking to reporters, Becker said.
Serving as mayor of Salt Lake City has been the richest working experience of my life.”
Salt Lake City voters also elected Derek Kitchen, who became the second gay member of the City Council.
He and his husband, Moudi Sbeity, were one of three couples who sued to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
In the last few weeks, Utah has seen several setbacks to the LGBT community.
Last weeks a judge ordered a foster child to be removed from a lesbian couple and placed with a heterosexual couple. The judge cited the child’s well-being as the reason for his order.
The ruling set off a firestorm around the world. The judge quickly reversed his decision and took himself off the case.
Days earlier, the Salt Lake City-based Mormon church issued new rules targeting gay members and their children, prompting widespread backlash. The new policy bans baptisms for children of gay parents until the kids turn 18 and disavow same-sex relationships.
Earlier this year, the church endorsed a statewide anti-discrimination law that protected gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing and the workplace.
Biskupski said one of her goals as mayor is to meet with church leaders and discuss the new rules.
Back in 1998, when Biskupski became Utah’s first openly gay lawmaker – some of her Mormon colleagues and conservative Legislature wouldn’t shake her hand.
Asked about her win in light of the recent controversies, Biskupski said,
It’s 2015, and we’ve come a long way from, gosh, when I first got elected.”
Salt Lake City is a liberal island in the state where no Republican has been elected mayor in four decades.