by Linda Sillitoe
Spencer L. Kimball, acting dean of the University of Utah Law School and eldest son of LDS church president Spencer W. Kimball, became the first ACLU representative in Utah in the mid-1950s. (Courtesy University of Utah Archives, Manuscripts Division, University of Utah Marriott Library.)
Adam “Mickey” Duncan, an active Mormon, succeeded Kimball as ACLU representative in Utah and, with the award of their first charter in 1958, became the Utah affiliate’s first board president. (Courtesy Utah State Historical Society.)
Steven Smoot, who followed Duncan as board president, began his involvement with the ACLU as an undergraduate concerned with Utah’s “own little microcosm of McCarthyism,” which led him to butt heads with ultraconservatives. (Courtesy Utah State Historical Society.)
Jim Joy, a doctoral student at the University of Utah, became involved with anti-pornography issues just days after taking over as the Utah affiliate’s part-time executive director. Advocating economic pressure rather than censorship, Joy was linked to the likes of Roy Rogers. (Courtesy American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.)
Brian Barnard, who early on teamed up with the ACLU as a cooperating attorney on the Deep Throat obscenity case, joined with the ACLU on issues as diverse as school prayer and prisoners’ rights. (Courtesy University of Utah Archives, Manuscripts Division, University of Utah Marriott Library.)
Robyn Blumner, a self-described New York Jew, approaching twenty-five when she became head of the Utah affiliate, took little time before engaging in church-state issues and prison affairs. (Courtesy University of Utah Archives, Manuscripts Division, University of Utah Marriott Library.)
Gary DeLand, forceful executive director of the Utah State Department of Corrections, began negotiating with the ACLU and Blurnner over medical rights for prisoners. The relationship turned sour after Michele Parish assumed leadership of the Utah affiliate. (Courtesy Deseret News.)
Michele Parish took over direction of the ACLU of Utah in 1989. Her high-profile positions on prison conditions and public prayer kept her in the mind of political cartoonists and government officials alike. (Courtesy University of Utah Archives, Manuscripts Division, University of Utah Marriott Library.)
The Utah ACLU affiliate has been the focus of local and national media attention over the years: school prayer was brought to a head when the Alpine and Granite school districts were sued; the response of Michele Parish to LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks’s Wall Street Journal article led to a falling out between Parish and ACLU board president Boyer Jarvis; double bunking at the prison was one of several issues Parish and the Utah affiliate took up with prison officials; a counter-attack by prison officials suggested that Parish precipitated a prison riot; Carol Gnade was heralded as “contemplative and careful” after Parish’s volatile administration.
The ACLU-sponsored advertisement in the New York Times noting Utah’s abortion law implied that abortion was punishable by death in Utah. Although it provoked a bitter backlash locally, the ad prompted a special session to amend the law.
“IN UTAH THEY KNOW HOW TO PUNISH A WOMAN WHO HAS AN ABORTION. SHOOT HER.”
On several occasions reproductive rights protesters demonstrated on the grounds of the Utah State Capitol. (Courtesy University of Utah Archives, Manuscripts Division, University of Utah Marriott Library.)
Calvin Grondahl, editorial cartoonist for the Ogden Standard-Examiner, noted the influence of the LDS church on the “fun bus” bill, but the church found itself with strange bedfellows when the Utah affiliate supported the right of LDS officials to lobby as an act of free speech. (Courtesy Calvin Grondahl.)