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After retiring from a long career of representing the LDS Church's interests on Utah's Capitol Hill, lobbyist Bill Evans is joining the board of Affirmation, a support group for LGBT Mormons.
Evans' work as a "straight ally" began during his collaboration with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists in fall 2009, when Salt Lake City was working with various groups "to develop and promote a new civil rights ordinance" for the capital city, Affirmation President John Gustav-Wrathall said in a news release Thursday. "He was astonished by the graciousness of those activists toward him even after acknowledging his role in the LDS Church's Prop 8 campaign [in California]," which defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.
Salt Lake City, with the LDS Church's blessing, adopted trailblazing nondiscrimination ordinances in November 2009, protecting LGBT individuals from bias in housing and employment.
The Utah Legislature, again with the endorsement of the state's predominant Mormon faith, passed similar LGBT safeguards last year while also shielding some religious freedoms.
Soon after the Salt Lake City effort, Evans "was instrumental in opening up a dialogue between Affirmation and the LDS Church," Gustav-Wrathall said, "and was moved by the desire of the Affirmation leadership to foster a positive relationship."
Since Evans' retirement from LDS Church Public Affairs, the former lobbyist has been involved in an initiative to help homeless youths in Utah.
"The grace and openness consistently shown me by members of the LGBT community were part of a transformative journey for me," Evans said in the release. "I am grateful for and honored by this invitation to enter into deeper service with that community on the Board of Affirmation."
Two other professionals have been added to the group's board: Laura Skaggs Dulin, a California-based therapist who specializes in multicultural contexts, and Justis Tuia, an activist and diversity consultant in Washington, D.C.
"Laura, Bill and Justis bring skills, connections and perspectives I believe are essential for Affirmation to effectively serve LGBT Mormons, their families and friends throughout the world at this particularly critical and painful moment in the history of relations between LGBT people and the LDS Church," Gustav-Wrathall said.
The LGBT community is still hurting from November's policy pronouncement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints labeling same-sex Mormon couples "apostates" and forbidding their children from baptism and other LDS religious rites until they turn 18.
Dulin "brings a wealth of skills and understanding to help us as a community more effectively heal the trauma so many have experienced as a result of homophobia and transphobia in the LDS community," Gustav-Wrathall added, "including in the wake of recent events surrounding the new LDS Church policy on gay families."
Tuia has a "deep understanding of the challenges many organizations face in terms of institutionalized sexism, racism and other '-isms,' " the Affirmation leader said, and will help the group become "more balanced in terms of gender and more fully inclusive of people of color, and trans, nonbinary and bi folks."