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State Representative David Litvack
Salt Lake City, UT
“Why I Ran for Office”
At the time I decided to run for office, I was working for a human rights organization that engaged Utahans from diverse backgrounds in dialogue to promote respect and understanding of one another. This organization also advocated for just and inclusive public policy.
In 2000, the year I was asked if I had an interest in seeking public office, I had spent the previous four years working to defeat "English Only" legislation at the Utah State Legislature and, ultimately, a ballot proposal that unfortunately passed. That particular year, I was advocating against a measure to restrict the adoption rights of the LGBT community.
I will never forget the day that this anti-gay measure passed a House committee. It had a tremendous affect on me. I watched as families had their hopes and dreams crushed in the matter of minutes with very little debate or consideration for facts. To that point in my life, I had always enjoyed being engaged in policy discussions, but it always felt very objective and I felt removed from the impact of the public policy being considered. I learned a very valuable lesson that day as to the power and consequences of the decisions being made by elected officials on the lives, dreams, and aspirations of individuals and families.
A mentor of mine, Rep. Jackie Biskupski, who was influential in my decision to run for office, said that if I decided to run for office and won, my role as a legislator would be to bring the work I had been doing in the community – building bridges of respect and understanding across differences – to the Utah State Legislature. It would not be, necessarily, to pass legislation, but to form relationships with fellow Democrats and Republicans in a way that would move forward respectful dialogue amongst Utah's increasingly diverse community. My role would be to foster dialogue and to bring a much needed perspective on the consequences of the decisions being made on Utah's under-represented and disenfranchised communities.
I ultimately decided to run for office because it offered a new opportunity to continue the fight for equality, inclusion, and fairness for all people.
The greatest challenge has been to not become discouraged and disheartened. As a member of the "super" minority party, there are many battles and, unfortunately, not nearly enough victories. This is particularly difficult for me around the issues that I care most deeply and passionately about, such as equality and securing rights for all people.
Over the years, I have been on the "losing" side as the State of Utah has taken away or denied rights to the LGBT community, targeted our immigrants, and defeated pro-active civil rights measures. But, the greatest success has been helping to slowly break down these barriers. After many years of debate, Utah finally passed anti-racial profiling policies (2001) and effective hate crimes legislation (2006). We remain one of the few states that allow undocumented immigrant students to attend our state institutions at in-state tuition rates (though there is an annual effort to repeal it). And, while the Utah Legislature has refused to pass a statewide anti-discrimination policy that is inclusive of the LGBT community, cities and counties have taken it upon themselves to ensure that their ordinances do. My greatest success, I hope, is that I have been a part of changing the discussion, debate, and the outcome.