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Sent on Mormon-News: 27Jun01

By Paul Carter

Democratic Endorsement Complicated by LDS Church Activity

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- In an article regarding Democratic Party candidates for the District 5 seat on Salt Lake's City Council, the Salt Lake Tribune identifies what it refers to as "the rift" between Mormon and non-Mormon Democrats. The author of the article, columnist Paul Rolly, states that this division in the party, so evident in the Salt Lake City race, is what keeps Democrats throughout Utah "beneath the boot heel of the state's Republican juggernaut."

The Democratic race for the District 5 Council position has been narrowed to two contenders, the incumbent Roger Thompson running against a long-time Democratic activist, Jill Remington. District 5 includes the sections of Salt Lake City known as lower Sugar House and Central City, a district considered to be quite liberal. Mr. Thompson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, won his position here four years ago by a margin of just 44 votes, running against an outspoken gay candidate, Jackie Biskupski.

In that previous campaign, a group of gay and lesbian voters in the district perhaps did not believe Ms. Biskupski to be a strong enough voice for their rights. These constituents voted instead for Mr. Thompson who had publicized a position he took while on the Salt Lake City School Board defending special treatment for gays. According to the Tribune article, these votes from the gay community, when combined with the votes of those who are associates of Mr. Thompson in the LDS Church, gave him the slim majority he received to win.

During the past term however, gays and lesbians have come believe that they were betrayed by Councilman Thompson, particularly in one vote by Thompson to repeal a Salt Lake ordinance offering protections for gays and lesbians. Roger Thompson is seen as vulnerable in the primary election to losing his Council position.

Ms. Biskupski is not running again. She has now gone on to a Representative's seat in the Utah State Legislature, representing that area which includes District 5. In her current position, Representative Biskupski has a very high profile because of her strong stand for causes of minority groups in Utah, particularly gays and lesbians. Her endorsement is being sought for the Salt Lake District 5 race by Jill Remington, the other Democratic candidate now running against Mr. Thompson.

But Ms. Biskupski's endorsement of Jill Remington has not materialized--not yet. "It's not that I am against her," states Ms. Biskupski. "I don't know enough about her to just come out and endorse her. I need to sit down and talk to her and learn more about where she stands on the issues. My voice is important in the gay and lesbian community and among all minorities, and that carries a heavy responsibility."

According to Tribune columnist Rolly, between the lines of those words one can begin to see what divides the "Mormon" and "non-Mormon" members of the Democratic Party in Utah.

Like Roger Thompson, Jill Remington is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Apparently, there exists a very strong level of distrust of any such Democrats by fellow party members who do not share their religious affiliation. The Tribune article states that Ms. Biskupski "admits that past experiences has (sic) made her wary of Mormon Democrats and how committed they will be to the issues dear to her heart."

Seeing the vote by Roger Thompson to repeal the Salt Lake City ordinance giving protections to gays and lesbians, and then later to have female Democratic state legislators vote for a bill that forbids unmarried couples to adopt children--these were exasperating experiences for Ms. Biskupski.

Regarding her bitter loss in fighting against the adoption bill, Representative Biskupski says, "I was told by so many people that they were with me philosophically, but they were under so much pressure to vote for it."

Ms. Biskupski took that pressure to be coming from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I'm not anti-Mormon," says Representative Biskupski. "I don't want it to come across that I am against Mormons. I am not."

But the endorsement of Jill Remington by State Representative Jackie Biskupski to defeat the Representative's old political foe will not be provided automatically, if at all, given that Ms. Remington is a practicant of her religion.


S.L. Council Race Highlights Religious Rift Among Democrats
Salt Lake Tribune 17Jun01 T2
By Paul Rolly


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