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A Man Key to the Legalization of Gay Marriage Wants to Be a 'Bridge Builder' -- as a Lawmaker. Here's His Thinking.

Updated on August 6, 2018
Rhett Wilkinson profile image

Rhett has won 12 awards from the Society of Professional Journalists or Religion Newswriters Association. He's on Twitter @rhettrites.

Derek Kitchen
Derek Kitchen | Source

In recent years, the name Derek Kitchen became well-known, as he was one of the plaintiffs in the legal effort to end the ban on same-sex marriage in Utah.

And for several years, Jim Dabakis has been the best-known progressive advocate in Utah, a gay man who is on the far-left end of the spectrum on every issue – and who makes it known.

It has worked out that Kitchen is set to replace Dabakis in the state legislature. His primary win indicates that; his win in the general is all but assured given that the Senate District 2 Kitchen seeks to represent is solidly liberal.

Given his compatibility in sexuality and political views to Dabakis, and that he is by definition Dabakis’ successor, Kitchen has very much been much perceived as Dabakis 2.0.

Kitchen said in a primary election debate that he wanted to be a “bridge builder.”

But as Kitchen said in that same debate, he was a plaintiff for the “landmark” case Kitchen v. Herbert, which changed the legal recognition of marriage in Utah.

And as Kitchen said, his case was “the first domino in legalizing equality nationwide.”

And Dabakis has been regarded as brash, noisy, even annoying. He claimed relatively few legislative victories in his six legislative sessions.

So what gives?

“My hope is that with my experience in serving in city council and understanding how the municipal operation works, that I can advocate for the city’s interest on the hill and be that bridge builder," Kitchen told me following the debate.

He made the remark after saying that his "comments were not in reference to Jim or any other office-holder."

Instead, Kitchen "was talking about how Salt Lake City over the years has been drug through the mud by the legislature," he said.

Kitchen, who Dabakis endorsed for his seat, has been a member of the Salt Lake City Council for three years.

Kitchen, who defeated pediatrician Jennifer Plumb in the primary, added that he likes to “build relationships and find common ground with people.”

“My hope is that in representing this very progressive, liberal district, that we can get something done with somebody like me (who) can work across the aisle and bring people on board,” Kitchen said.

Kitchen then remarked that Dabakis “has done such a great job in articulating the issues as a lot of people in the state see it.”

“And so he leaves enormous shoes to fill in that way,” Kitchen said. “(He’s) the great communicator, right?”

“I will do my best to do that and to live up to the high bar that he set,” Kitchen added.

As Kitchen explained at the Alliance for a Better Utah-sponsored debate, he is a Utah native, from South Jordan, and grew up in a family that raised cattle and buffalo. His husband is Moudi Sbeity and he has lived in downtown Salt Lake City “for the better part of a decade.” His service in the city council followed that, where he has helped develop more affordable housing.

© 2018 Rhett Wilkinson


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