LGBT community rallies in Cedar City
Gay rights » About 50 gather to demand anti-bias legislation.
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A rally about a need for laws to bar discrimination against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community drew about 50 people Saturday in this southern Utah city.

Benjamin Smith, president of the Queer Straight Alliance at Southern Utah University (SUU), told the crowd legislators should be encouraged to pass such legislation.

"Now there is no legal recourse for the [LGBT] community," Smith said. "We can be openly fired or denied jobs and housing."

He said he planned the rally in response to comments by Utah Senate president Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, who is opposed to further anti-discrimination legislation at this time.

"Utah should start looking at the facts," Smith said. "They should listen to the LDS Church when they say what is good for one people is good for all people."

He also quoted Matthew Arnold: "Free thinking in one age is the common sense of the next," he said.

Russell Kennedy, a member of the student senate at SUU, told the crowd he wrote a resolution adopted by the school that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. "Our time is now. We deserve to live our own truth with respect for who we are and others for who they are," he said.

In an interview, Kennedy recalled growing up in Delta and being afraid to reveal he was gay. He shared the fear he felt after the torture death of Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming in 1998.

"We're here for every Matthew Shepherd," he said.

Christopher McArdle, former president of Southern Utah Pride Association Inc., stood on Main Street with a sign promoting equality and waving to drivers. He said acceptance of LGBT is gaining momentum in southern Utah.

"Especially in St. George, it's amazing," said McArdle. "There are gay-straight alliances in the high schools and students can now be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. ...We're building a foundation [of tolerance] for the future."

Sala Tumanuvao traveled from St. George for the rally, which she described as "awesome." She said she helped start a gay-straight alliance at Desert Hills High School despite resistance from school administrators.

Andrea Robinson, a former dance major at SUU, stood out at the rally with her rainbow cap and cape. She wants to see the Legislature act more aggressively to protect the rights of gays, lesbians and others.

She was also impressed and encouraged by Saturday's turnout. "It gives you faith in this state," she said of the crowd.

Douglas Gubler, a student at Dixie State College in St. George, said equality is a human right.

"It's right in the Pledge of Allegiance. We all say 'Liberty and justice for all,'" Gubler said. "There is no small print that says 'unless you're gay.'"

mhavnes@sltrib.com