Equality & Social Justice

The Issue

American democracy continuously evolves and incorporates the diversity of backgrounds and identities that make our country unique and strong. But under the status quo, not everyone can participate fully in our society, and many Americans do not fully enjoy the legal rights to which the constitution entitles them.

Socioeconomic disparities limit our friends’ and neighbors’ contributions to our community.  Many living in poverty lack affordable access to basic services. Our criminal justice system faces tremendous pressure to absorb and rehabilitate offenders from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of needs, all with inadequate resources and flexibility.  

Members of many marginalized communities face discrimination in their daily lives, impeding their happiness, success, and social participation. Almost a century after the nineteenth amendment guaranteed them the right to vote, women still do not enjoy equal pay and participation in our society. Many people of color likewise do not receive de facto respect for their civil rights when dealing with access to public services and the justice system.  While our bisexual, lesbian, and gay friends can now legally marry the person they love throughout our country, too many people of our LGBT Utahns face discrimination, violence, and higher health risks. LGBT youth face disproportionate risk for bullying, homelessness, and suicide.

Utah Democrats do not accept the present reality as an inevitable reality.  Utah Democrats commit to change that ensures equal protection under the law and equal opportunity for all.

Our Position

Utah Democrats believe economic inequality presents one of the most pervasive obstacles to social and legal equality. State and local governments must fund social services including affordable housing and healthcare to allow the most vulnerable in our society to survive. These governments must then ensure access to education, work training, and voting rights to help everyone thrive.

Utah Democrats know that a strong criminal justice system constitutes a critical component of a safe democracy. However, the current system has led to growing prison populations and a high recidivism rate. We believe we can improve the system through sufficient funding for drug rehabilitation services and restorative justice practices that enable those who have committed crimes to rejoin society through work and school.

Utah Democrats see the obstacles women face to social participation and career success, and we know these obstacles hurt all of us. Sex should never determine a person’s pay, her or his career options, or her or his family options. Utah Democrats will continue to fight for laws that protect equal pay. We will also continue the fight to protect women’s health. Women and their doctors, not legislators, have the best knowledge on how to care for women’s health.

Utah Democrats celebrate the recent advances in rights for the LGBT community, but we also recognize we have more work to do. We reject calls for a federal marriage amendment that would destroy a fundamental civil right.  We support nondiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Democrats also know that robust hate crime laws strengthen law enforcement officers’ ability to confront violence, and we must provide training to these officers on how to handle issues or circumstances unique to the LGBT community. Queer youth often face brutal discrimination, and we call for legal measures and funding to prevent bullying of LGBTQ youth in schools and to support homeless queer youth.

Accomplishments

State Representative Angela Romero sponsored the successful “Consent Definition for Sexual Offense” bill during the 2015 General Session (HB 74, cosponsored by numerous Utah Democrats). This legislation amended the legal definition of consent to specify consciousness and comprehension of sexual activity as prerequisites for consent. This progressive legal measure helps survivors of sexual assault receive proper legal support and promotes education on consent for Utahns. Thank you, Representative Romero, for fighting for social justice!

The 2015 legislative session finally saw the success of an LGBT nondiscrimination bill in Utah, an accomplishment towards which Utah Democrats have worked for more than a decade. All of Utah’s Democrats rallied with Republican allies to pass a bipartisan bill protecting individuals from job and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Thank you to all of our Utah Democrats who refused to give up on legal protections for our LGBT family and friends!

This past year, Minority House Leader Brian King sponsored successful legislation to strengthen human trafficking laws and protect Utah children from abuse. Representative King and the bill’s Senate sponsor, Democratic Senator Luz Robles Escamilla, rallied overwhelming support for the bill in both houses of the legislature. Thank you, Representative King and Senator Escamilla, for leading the charge to protect Utah’s children!