GLBT group: Williams and Olch are allies |

GLBT group: Williams and Olch are allies

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A political-action committee of Equality Utah, the state’s dominant gay-rights group, has bestowed favorable recommendations on Mayor Dana Williams and his opponent on Election Day, Brad Olch, saying that both are allied with the group’s interests as it presses for equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

In doing so, Equality Utah declined to endorse either of the two candidates. The political-action committee also opted against giving either one of them a donation, saying it is not in its interest to put money into a campaign in which both candidates are supportive of issues important to Equality Utah.

"They’re both good on our issues," said Brandie Balken, the executive director of Equality Utah, adding, "It doesn’t behoove us to choose one over the other."

They are two of the 26 candidates that received favorable recommendations statewide. None of the four Park City Council candidates are among Equality Utah’s list of favorable candidates. Balken said the City Council candidates did not respond to interview requests from Equality Utah while Williams and Olch did.

She said the group asks candidates about their support for local workplace anti discrimination laws and broader campaign issues. Williams and Olch told the interviewers they support anti-discrimination measures that include protections in the workplace for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. The two candidates were interviewed in mid-August, prior to the primary election that cut the four-person field to the two remaining mayoral competitors.

In a prepared statement issued in late August, Balken said the candidates receiving favorable recommendations will be "fair-minded in their approach to policy making."

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Park City has long prided itself on being a welcoming community to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, with the local mindset considered more liberal than other places in Utah as the city has drawn new residents from the coasts.

Voters in Summit County went against the rest of the state as a ballot measure prohibiting gay marriage was approved, the Queer Lounge, a gay-friendly destination during the Sundance Film Festival, has become a hotspot and there were local demonstrations after California voters rejected marriages between gays.

City Hall, meanwhile, provides benefits for people in domestic partnerships regardless of whether they are of the opposite or same sex. The benefits have been in place for a few years, and some of them include the availability of health and dental insurance, life insurance and counseling through an employee-assistance program. Domestic partners may also be named as the beneficiary of an investment account government employees participate in similar to a private-sector 401(k) program.

"You have gay and transgendered (citizens) in Park City. It’s important for them to be treated the same," Balken said.

This year’s campaign is the first that Equality Utah has been involved in a Park City election. Issues of importance to the group have not been widely discussed during the campaign season, and they have not been of consequence during previous City Hall elections.

Williams beat Olch and two other candidates by a wide margin in the primary. The winner between Williams and Olch on Election Day will be sworn into office in January.

In interviews with The Park Record, Williams and Olch outlined their commitment to equal rights at City Hall.

Williams said offering the benefits package is "the right thing to do."

"I think that most people in the community know, in the last eight years, I’ve tried very hard to make people aware we are open and participatory, and that has nothing to do with one’s lifestyle choice," Williams said.

Olch said he supports City Hall’s benefits package "100 percent."

"I absolutely agree with them, essentially, everyone should be treated the same," Olch said.