Salt Lake City elects first openly gay mayor amid setbacks

Salt Lake City Elects First Openly Gay Mayor

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Former Utah lawmaker Jackie Biskupski on Tuesday became the first openly gay mayor of Salt Lake City, the capital of the conservative state where the Mormon church and a small town judge delivered setbacks last week to the LGBT community.

The victory by Biskupski marked another milestone for LGBT people in Utah who have made major strides in recent years.

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"Today is not just about making history," Biskupski said. "It is about people. It is about affecting change."

Her supporters cheered when the results were read at an elections canvass meeting.

Two-term incumbent Ralph Becker showed no reaction and later congratulated Biskupski and vowed to work with her to ensure a smooth transition.

Official election results showed Biskupski won 52 percent of the votes to defeat Becker.

"Serving as mayor of Salt Lake City has been the richest working experience of my life," Becker told reporters.

Salt Lake City voters also elected Derek Kitchen, who became the second gay member of the City Council.

He and his husband, Moudi Sbeity, were one of three couples who sued to overturn the state's same-sex marriage ban.

Biskupski takes over after progress on gay rights was temporarily marred in recent weeks when a judge ordered a foster child to be removed from a lesbian couple and placed with a heterosexual couple. The judge cited the child's well-being as the reason for his order.

The ruling set off a firestorm around the state and nation. The judge quickly reversed his decision and took himself off the case.

Days earlier, the Salt Lake City-based Mormon church issued new rules targeting gay members and their children, prompting widespread backlash. The new policy bans baptisms for children of gay parents until the kids turn 18 and disavow same-sex relationships.

RELATED GALLERY: See photos of the Mormon church same-sex policy protests

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Salt Lake City elects first openly gay mayor amid setbacks
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protesters walk past the historic Mormon temple after many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protesters walk past the historic Mormon temple after many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protestors hold pride flags and signs in front of the Historic Mormon Temple on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Piles of letters from people who resign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children are seen in a mailbox on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Standing in front of a pride flag with the historic Mormon Temple in the background people have their picture taken after they resign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: A pride flag flies in front of the Historic Mormon Temple as part of a protest where people resigned from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: People hold protest signs in City Creek Park after many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protesters gather in City Creek Park and fill out papers to resign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: With the World Headquarters of the Mormon church in the background, Krystal Rogers Nielson holds her letter of resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: People march from City Creek Park after many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: People wait in line to submit their letter to resign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: With the historic Mormon Salt Lake Temple in the background, Chris Wade, (R) and Sam Wade (L) laugh as they wait in line to submit their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: People march from City Creek Park down State Street in downtown Salt Lake after many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: The Putnam family fills out papers to submit their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: A woman holds a protest sign in City Creek Park after many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protestors hold pride flags and signs in front of the Historic Mormon Temple on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: A woman waits in line with her letter of resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protesters gather in City Creek Park where many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: A man holds a protest sign in City Creek Park after many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Jennifer Frodsham, (L) submits paperwork to attorney Mark Naugle, (R) to resign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protesters gather in City Creek Park where many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Ted Thompson submits his resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protesters gather in City Creek Park where many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: The Mormon Churches historic Salt Lake temple and the world headquarters of the church is seen from City Creek Park, where a mass resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children took place on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protestors hold pride flags and signs in front of the Historic Mormon Temple on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: People line up to submit their letter to attorney Mark Naugle, to resign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Patricia Peterson hold her letter of resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER14: Protesters gather in City Creek Park where many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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Biskupski is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said she hopes the faith reconsiders the policy. She said one of her goals as mayor is to meet with church leaders and discuss the new rules.

Biskupski declined to discuss the church policy further Tuesday, saying she wanted to meet with Mormon officials first.

Earlier this year, the church endorsed a statewide anti-discrimination law that protected gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing and the workplace.

It's a contrast from 1998, when Biskupski became Utah's first openly gay lawmaker and some of her colleagues in the heavily Mormon and conservative Legislature wouldn't shake her hand.

Asked about her win in light of the recent controversies, Biskupski said, "It's 2015, and we've come a long way from, gosh, when I first got elected."

Regarding the foster child case, Biskupski said she was proud of Utah's Republican governor for criticizing the action by the judge. She called the ruling "so old and rhetorical."

LGBT issues didn't define the tight race between Biskupski and Becker.

Salt Lake City is a liberal island in the state where no Republican has been elected mayor in four decades. Gay rights group Equality Utah endorsed both Becker and Biskupski.

Becker, 63, has been called an ally of the LGBT community, helping pass a 2009 city anti-discrimination ordinance. He also officiated dozens of the first gay marriages in 2013 in the hours after a surprising ruling overturned Utah's same sex marriage ban.

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