Chad Griffin is brand new on the job as president of the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization. And his very first stop is Utah. Griffin says there’s a reason for that.
“It’s a state that does represent some fairly depressing numbers as it relates to how LGBT people are treated, but it’s also a state that represents some real hope,” said Griffin.
In a survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign of 10,000 LGBT youth, Griffin says Utah diverges from the national average in a number of significant areas. The survey found that 49 percent nationally felt accepted by their community, but only 24 percent felt accepted in Utah. 45 percent across the nation felt that their state government was not accepting of LGBT people; 65 percent felt that way in Utah. Griffin says 58 percent of LGBT youth in Utah reported hiding their sexual orientation from their immediate family.
“There is no question that a young person not being able to openly be who they are with their mother, their father, their religious leader, their teacher has tragic consequences,” he said.
Griffin is visiting a Volunteers of America youth homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, where about 30 percent of the youth identify as LGBT.
“We have seen far too often over the last months and years that when a young person is rejected by his or her church, or family or school, it should be no surprise that it leads to these tragic consequences which can include homelessness, but sadly oftentimes can include suicide.”
Griffin says there are signs, however, that Utah is becoming more accepting.
“Last Sunday in the pride parade there were over 300 straight Mormons who marched in the pride parade in support of their LGBT brothers, sisters, children, mothers and fathers. I think that is a tremendous indication of just how far we’ve come, but these numbers remind us yet of how far we have to go,” he said.
Griffin will be visiting the Volunteers of America Utah Youth Homeless Drop-in Center tomorrow morning, along with civil rights leader Julian Bond. His visit will conclude with the Human Rights Campaign Gala Dinner which is aimed at raising awareness of issues facing LGBT youth in Utah and across the country.