Salt Lake City Inaugurates ‘Harvey Milk Boulevard’ In Symbol Of State’s Increasingly Liberal Stance On LGBT Rights

Salt Lake City, Utah, seems like an unlikely place to host one of the country’s only streets named after Harvey Milk, but then again, it also seemed unlikely to elect one of the country’s first openly gay mayors. Religious demographics and stereotypes, as the state capital illustrates, can be deceiving.

Salt Lake City’s reputation for being unreceptive toward gay rights largely comes from the national involvement of the Mormon church in anti-gay marriage efforts — particularly their concentrated effort in 2008 to pass Prop 8 and ban gay marriage in California. In a state where Harvey became the first ever openly gay elected official, those efforts stung the reputation of the Latter Day Saints and, by association, Utah itself.

Yet, at least in the case of Milk’s new street in Salt Lake City, Mormon elected officials aren’t pushing back, reported The Salt Lake Tribune. When Harvey Milk’s street naming came before the city council, all seven members approved — more than half of whom are Mormon. That shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who keeps an eye on Utah’s politics. The state’s Republican governor signed an anti-discrimination bill into law in 2015, and SLC’s current mayor, Jackie Biskupski, is openly lesbian.

“Utah is a red state, but not a redneck state,” as Equality Utah’s executive director told Los Angeles Times. In Salt Lake City and beyond there is a desire for tolerance that outweighs the squeamishness in putting up the names of gay rights figures like Milk, argued Stan Penfold, the state’s first openly gay councilman.

“If we were looking at a liquor law change, we’d hear all about it. Part of that comes from the relationships that were forged when the nondiscrimination law passed.”

Some locals, on the other hand, did speak out against the inclusion of Harvey. Many of them argued that someone like Milk with no real ties to the community, did not belong there. One such critic was Marla Foote, a resident who lives on the portion of 900 South being renamed.

“We see absolutely no reason to rename it for someone who has no ties here. He’s never even been to Utah as far as we can tell. He’s a California person.

Proponents, of course, argue that many figures who pushed for the national rights of minority groups — such as Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King, Jr. — are also treated to having parts of Salt Lake City named after them. Harvey is just the latest addition.

While the LDS church has been turning down its antagonistic stance toward the LGBT rights won by people like Milk in some ways, it’s still unlikely that they’ll be celebrating Harvey’s name making it to the Salt Lake City streets. Earlier this year, the Mormon church was flamed for announcing a policy which did not allow either gays or the children of gay parents to remain members of the church unless they publicly denounced their parents’ relationship, as was previously reported in the Inquisitr.

Are your surprised Salt Lake City, Utah, now counts a Harvey Milk Blvd. among its roadways?

[Image via George Frey and Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]