Hundreds of LGBTQ+ High School Students Gather for Youth Conference. I Was So Inspired!

It was only a few minutes. But I don't think I will ever speak to an audience that moves me more than today. Hundreds of high school LGBTQ+ students gathered from all across our state. My voice quivered as I welcomed them to the first annual IGNITE Utah Youth Conference. Looking into their faces, I saw all that is good about Utah.

I told the gathering a tale they had not heard. The courage of two students, Kelly Petersen and Jacob Orozco, from East High School in 1995. Two students that simply wanted to have a safe place in their school. Kelly and Jacob asked for a Gay Straight Alliance Club at East. I told the Class of 2020ish about the forces of fear and bigotry that immediately engulfed the brave children from East. The bullying of these students was from a threatened state power structure that saw some great threat in the simple request of two students. The Salt Lake City Board of Education, the Utah Senate, the Governor and so many others wanted this idea crushed.

The Board of Education chose to stop all not-curriculum clubs rather than let a few GSA students meet at East. For four years clubs like the Young Republicans, Future Farmers, Future Homemakers and the Polynesian Club could not meet, as federal law required the GSA be allowed to meet if the Board gave others meeting rights.

I told these brave young people that they were sitting today at Utah Valley University courtesy of courageous people like Kelly, Jacob and so many others. Trump or not, being with these students has renewed my faith in the future of the United States of America and in Utah! Thanks to amazing Encircle for organizing this landmark day.

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