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Meet LGBT History Month icon Jackie Biskupski

(Editor's note: October is LGBT History Month, celebrated annually to recognize the notable achievements of LGBT people throughout time. Each day this month, Equality Forum will feature one LGBT icon who has made notable contributions to society and SDGLN will publish the story here in the Causes section. View previous LGBT History Month icons HERE.)

The child of Catholic Polish-American parents, Biskupski grew up in Hastings, Minnesota. Learning about the civil rights movement in elementary school sparked her interest in championing the rights of women and minorities.

Biskupski graduated with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Arizona State University. She moved to Utah after college, where she worked in the insurance industry and founded a small private investigation firm.

In 1995 the Salt Lake City School District and the Utah State Legislature tried to remove a gay-straight alliance club from an area high school. The controversy ignited Biskupski’s political ambitions. Two years later, at age 31, she won a seat on the executive committee of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party and was elected to the board of directors of the World Young Women's Christian Association.

In 1998 Biskupski became the first openly gay person elected to the Utah House of Representatives. Although Utah is among the most conservative states, Biskupski was reelected five times. She served six consecutive terms—a total of 13 years—representing the state’s 30th District in Salt Lake County.

As a representative, Biskupski continually faced opposition and backlash, but remained a vocal supporter of LGBT rights. She worked to combat the state’s ban on adoption by same-sex parents and successfully helped amend anti-LGBT legislation. In 2011, her last year as a legislator, Biskupski cofounded Utah’s Real Women Run, an initiative that encourages women to run for political office.

In 2015 Biskupsi was elected the 35th mayor of Salt Lake City. The win made her Utah’s first gay mayor and only the second woman in Salt Lake City ever to hold the position.

Immediately after assuming office, Biskupski focused on environmental sustainability. She presented plans and proposals with the goal of running Salt Lake City solely on renewable green energy by the year 2032. In 2016 the city adopted a 100% clean energy plan.

To help accomplish her green initiatives, Biskupski also created the Department of Economic Development. Since then, Salt Lake City has benefited from a half-billion dollars in investments and the creation of 6,000 new jobs.

In 2016 Biskupski married her longtime partner, Betty Iverson. They live in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City with their two sons, Archie and Jack.

Notable quote

“I was empowered to speak on the steps of our Capitol and make it known I am a survivor.”