There’s one professor, according to Executive Director of Equality Utah Troy Williams, who advocated for LGBT rights “long before it was cool and popular to do.”
Professor Forrest Crawford will be presented with the Utah Allies Award at the 2016 Allies Dinner Oct. 21.
An estimated 2,400 people are expected to attend the 15th anniversary of the banquet titled Everyday Rebels, activist Gloria Steinem being the keynote speaker. Williams called it “one of the largest sit-down dinners in the entire state.”
“We honor and recognize people who are allies in the work of bringing equality to the LGBTQ community,” Williams said. “As he has worked on various issues, on various causes, Dr. Crawford has always made sure that the LGBTQ community is included in that broader social justice movement.”
One of Crawford’s decades-long projects was lobbying statewide hate crime legislation, more notably with the help of Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, and late State Sen. Pete Suazo. Though success has been made in tracking perpetrators, Crawford continues his focus on improving prosecution stipulations.
Crawford was also instrumental in establishing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a state holiday and was more recently involved in the May 14 dedication of Harvey Milk Boulevard on 900 South in Salt Lake City.
This street, and others named after Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., represents the connection of civil rights ideas among coalitions. Referring to how Steinem’s feminist advocacy also brought in views of different ethnicities and sexual identities, Crawford said his work ― whether it involves those with disabilities, Native Americans, Latin-Americans or African-Americans ― would follow the same goals as when he advocates for the LGBT community.
“Civil rights are human rights,” Crawford said. “I don’t distinguish for any particular reason other than if a group has a pressing need in this state ― in this community ― where they have been subjugated and their rights have been abridged. It’s likely that I’m going to end up trying to assert those needs.”
Crawford said of Steinem, “I think her presence here is a reminder of how this work overlaps and intersects in a very dynamic way.”
Another individual receiving the award is Dr. Rixt Luikenaar, an OB-GYN who, according to Williams, is one of the few healthcare practitioners in the state to offer a “safe space” for transgender people. It was also presented to Mama Dragons ― Latter-day Saint mothers who support LGBT youth, especially after the Church’s 2015 policy declaring same-sex members apostates and barring children of these couples from membership until age 18.
Crawford referenced a line from the film “King Ralph,” a comedy of an American heir to British royalty, in which Sir Cedric Willingham said, “It is far easier to whisper advice from cover than to risk its merits at the point of attack.”
In the words of Crawford, Willingham meant that “There needs to be more courage for individuals to come out and support these issues … In other words, the more humanity is undermined, the more presence we ought to have as a community.”