Equality Utah’s annual dinner brought in more than 2,000 gay and straight allies last week in Salt Lake City.
Filmmaker and activist Robert Redford spoke to the crowd, attending the Allies Dinner for the first time, about how important it is for Utah to come together for equal rights.
“I hope in this particular case that Utah can catch up,” Redford said. “What happens in Utah can matter in a profound way. Anytime you change the lines or change laws in Utah that are discriminatory, many are going to see it as a benchmark, possibly, for other places.”
The LGBT community in Utah, accompanied by friends and family, politicians and community activists were in attendance last Monday night.
Donna Weinholtz, Allies Dinner co-chairwoman, thinks Utah will be “the first conservative, Republican state to pass a comprehensive housing and workplace nondiscrimination bill.”
Gay resident Doug Smith attended the dinner for his first time.
“I’m 60 years old, have five kids, and I’ve just decided, you know, it’s time to stand up and speak out,” Smith said. “It’s about being a good neighbor, but the same things you expect of a neighbor, you need to be.”
Straight couple, Chris and Debra Nelson, came to the dinner after being invited by Chris’ co-workers. At first he had no opinion about ensuring rights for gay couples. After the dinner, his support has grown.
“It’s hard to understand it until you know folks who are in those relationships,” he said. “It’s harder to judge people once you walk in their shoes a little bit and get to know them.”
Debra realized she was taking rights for granted because she was in a heterosexual relationship, like life insurance or decision making if a partner is in the hospital.
“When they’re a part of your lives, applying those same kind of prejudices to people you love is a lot more difficult,” she said.
The night was an opportunity to open peoples’ eyes and encourage change.
“Like you, I believe there’s no place in our world for discrimination,” Redford said. “None.”