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We Wish You an Equal Christmas

Group of renegade carolers take over Temple Square calling for ERA ratification.


  • Enrique Limón

As if shot within a picturesque Christmas movie, a group of cheerful carolers stood on the edge of Temple Square’s reflecting pool and broke out in song. Passers-by, drawn by the merriment, stopped and sang along surrounded by the busy square’s purported 1-million holiday lights, and quickly noticed something was awry. Jolly standard “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” for example, was modified to include lyrics like, “We won’t go until we get rights, so ratify now!” while “O Christmas Tree” was altered to include the line, “Equality equality, how beautiful thy freedoms.”

Carolers braved the chilly weather and sang updated renditions of holiday classics like "O Christmas Tree" and "Deck the Halls." - ENRIQUE LIMÓN
  • Enrique Limón
  • Carolers braved the chilly weather and sang updated renditions of holiday classics like "O Christmas Tree" and "Deck the Halls."
The gathering, organized by human rights attorney Kate Kelly and Joanna J. Smith, owner of downtown feminist coworking space, The Wave, was in protest of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment ratification.

“We believe ERA is a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family as individual members and as a whole,” the church's First Presidency said in a statement.

The constitutional amendment, designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all Americans regardless of gender, was first proposed in 1923 as the Lucretia Mott Amendment. After being reintroduced in 1971, it was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. By its March 1979 deadline, it was three short of the necessary 38 state ratifications, and has remained in limbo ever since. All these years later, it remains a hot-button issue, with three states filing a federal lawsuit this week to block it.

With Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville, leading what could be Utah’s historic ERA charge during the 2020 legislative session, for the 40 or so individuals assembled Friday night at Temple Square, the defiant display took on a special meaning.

Mary Finn, a mother of two, attended the event after hearing about it from one of her kids’ teachers. “It’s time for change,” she told City Weekly. “Change isn’t going to happen if we stop for the holidays or just because it’s cold. I have kids, and it’s their world next.”

Sentiments like that are what inspired Kelly to orchestrate the bold move. “No one organization or church or group should stand in the way of equality for all American women,” she said.

By her own admission, the lighthearted takeover was “in good fun,” adding that “it’s important for activists to do something fun and just do celebratory things.”

  • Enrique Limón

After going mostly unnoticed for 45 minutes, Kelly led the group across the street to the LDS conference center, where the singing continued, and the “ERA Yes” logo was projected onto the iconic building. Shortly thereafter, the group was approached by security personnel who ordered them to vacate the premises.

“We've accomplished what we came to accomplish,” Kelly said. “I think it was perfect; it was good timing.”

Threatening to call the cops, the guard proceeded to shoo away the carolers. “Typical Mormon male!” one of the attendees said as she was ushered down North Temple.