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Gains in civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns have been impressive enough that the Human Rights Campaign's nationwide bus rally began in Salt Lake City.

And that is fitting, said Joe Solmonese, president of the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, on Friday at the Gay Pride Center.

"There is so much good work being done in Utah," he said, "in what is considered a particularly challenging place for LGBT people to live."

Solmonese congratulated the Pride Center and Equality Utah for their efforts and successes in getting housing and job-protection ordinances passed in 12 Utah municipalities.

The bright blue and yellow bus with the sign "On the Road to Equality" emblazoned across its sides will hit 17 cities during the next three months as a way to educate the public. The effort also urges LGBT people to advocate for themselves and their families about civil rights that are still being denied to them because of their sexual orientation.

"This bus is on a mission" to make LGBT lives better, said Bruce Bastian, Word Perfect cofounder and a philanthropist who has given millions to support gay causes.

Valerie Larabee, Utah Pride Center executive director, said the bus tour "signifies the real change that is coming."

Poll results released by the Human Rights Campaign Thursday showed 70 percent of respondents said they know someone who is gay or lesbian, and 42 percent said their feelings about LGBT people have become more accepting during the past five to 10 years. The poll found that 77 percent of Utahns support anti-discrimination protections.

Other speakers at the kick-off event included Erin Gilmore, pastor of the Holladay United Church of Christ, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.

The bus will be in the capital city through Sunday. Organizers are offering community events, including faith-based and family workshops, a 5K race supporting Volunteers for America's efforts to establish transitional housing for homeless boys and an assessment of the state of the LGBT movement today. —

Get on the bus: More events this weekend

P "On the Road to Equality" is the Human Rights Campaign's nationwide bus tour to spread the message of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The 12-week tour will travel to 17 cities in 11 states and Washington, D.C. Organizers plan to focus on the Midwest and South, where there are limited legal protections for LGBT people. The Human Rights Campaign is holding events Saturday and Sunday:

Family acceptance • As part of a panel discussion, Caitlin Ryan will share research on how rejecting behaviors harm LGBT youths; 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Salt Lake City Main Library, Conference Room 4, 210 E. 400 South.

National movement • HRC will give a presentation on the state of the LGBT rights movement nationwide; 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, Hotel Monaco, 15 W. 200 South.

Bus open house • Last chance to view the bus before it hits the road. HRC also is hosting a 5K run-walk to benefit Volunteers of America's efforts to build a transitional home for homeless young men; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday. Cost for the 5K, which starts at 10 a.m., is $10.

Faith • Panel discussion on using faith to advocate for LGBT rights; 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Episcopal Church Center of Utah, Wasatch Room, 75 S. 200 East.

More information • hrc.org/roadtoequality

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