Late last month, a historic moment in Utah’s LGBT history took place when more than 20 state officials and legislators met with LGBT people who shared their personal stories of discrimination in the state.
The meeting, which was co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis and Republican Senator Steve Urquhart, marked the first time some of the state’s lawmakers had ever officially met with LGBT people.
Gay Utah native Justin Utley was among those who shared their story that night. Raised in the Mormon Church, Utley was placed in abusive gay-to-straight conversion therapy for two years after he came out to his bishop.
Yet, that was only the beginning of Utley’s discrimination nightmare in the state. After gaining the self-acceptance to begin dating, Utley met Brent – the first man with whom he would fall in love. However, when Utley received an email at work informing him Brent had unexpectedly died of a heart attack, he was not only heartbroken, but couldn’t openly grieve for fear he would lose his job if his boss learned of his sexuality.
In the days that followed, Utley’s fear became a reality when his boss informed him she had been monitoring his emails and promptly fired him because he was gay.
"There is a spoke in this wheel of diversity in this state that needs to be fixed... today, most transgender and gay Utahns are not only bringing a briefcase to work, but they're also bringing a closet," Utley said during his testament to Utah officials and lawmakers. "I'm here because I am still a proud Utahn born and raised with these values: compassion, optimism, that Utah is a place where every person has the same opportunity to earn a living free from discrimination."
Watch Utley’s full heartbreaking and inspiring story, shared by Opportunity4all.org, in the video below.