SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox has issued a proclamation supporting LGBTQ Pride month.
"Here in Utah, we strive to create a culture of hope, love, understanding, and respect by celebrating our common humanity," the governor posted on his official Twitter account. "Happy #Pride Month, Utah!"
The proclamation itself acknowledges June is LGBTQ Pride month and encourages "conversations about what it means to love each other, understand our differences, and support our LGBTQ+ friends and family members." It also acknowledges higher levels of mental health challenges for those who are rejected or ostracized and encourages Utah to "cultivate a climate of inclusion and unconditional love for all."
FOX 13 searched state archives and found Gov. Cox is the first Utah governor to issue such a proclamation. He is known for his friendliness toward the LGBTQ community. At a vigil for victims of the Pulse massacre in Florida, he gave an apology for past homophobia. He threatened vetoes of anti-transgender legislation in the 2021 session.
"I’m really proud of him and honored to serve alongside an executive that’s willing to put his neck out there," Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, told FOX 13 on Tuesday.
Sen. Kitchen sued Gov. Cox's predecessor, Gov. Gary Herbert, for the right to marry. The case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. After that, Gov. Herbert ordered state agencies to recognize same-sex couples in government services. (Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was supportive of LGBTQ rights and later spoke out in support of same-sex marriage.)
Sen. Kitchen said it was a sign of how far LGBTQ rights have come in Utah.
"That being said, we still have a whole lot of work to do. This last legislative session we had some really hurtful and quite frankly harmful legislation put forward targeting trans girls in sports. We are hearing rumblings this is coming back," he said.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, a longtime ally to the LGBTQ community, praised the governor's proclamation on Pride.
"It’s about celebrating the diversity that exists — very strong in our capital city — that is throughout the state of Utah," she said in an interview with FOX 13. "And I think it’s right and appropriate and welcome that our governor is finally recognizing that."
Other leaders within Utah's LGBTQ community were taken by surprise by the proclamation. At a ceremony raising the LGBTQ Pride flag at the Salt Lake City & County Building, a crowd cheered when Utah Pride Center Director Rob Moolman announced the governor's action.
"I love it! I think it’s a big step for Utah," said Tanya Hawkins, the vice-chair of the Utah Pride Center.
This week, Utah will mark Pride with a stripped-down festival because of COVID-19 restrictions.
"Our best bet was to ensure safety overall and to make sure whatever we organized could be safe, whether or not the restrictions could exist or not," said Isaiah Mataele, the center's community engagement manager.
Mayor Mendenhall said even with a smaller Pride festival, the work being done to support Utah's LGBTQ community was important.
"When you come out to this festival and you pay your entry fee, you can know that you are supporting programs that are supporting cradle to grave [programs] in our community in the state of Utah," the mayor said. "It’s critical work that isn’t done anywhere else."
Read Gov. Cox's proclamation here: