Kathy Worthington (20 October 1950 - 22 February 2007)
Kathy Worthington (left) and wife Sara Hamblin
"This is a watershed time. Now when leaders move on, there
is not only one person, but several people awaiting to take their
place. People used to think it was frightening to be a gay or lesbian
leader. Now more people are coming forward and saying, ‘I’ll
—Kathy Worthington, 1995
We regret to announce the passing of Kathy Worthington, a well-known Utah activist who made tremendous contributions to the GLBT community in Utah and across the country. Her passing comes one year and one day after the passing of her wife Sara Hamblin, who died of breast cancer on February 21, 2006.
Even though Kathy left the LDS Church many years ago, she was supportive
of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons and on one occasion came to
an Affirmation meeting to speak of her experiences attending the 1993 March on Washington. She also helped Affirmation prepare an article with information for Mormons who want to get their names removed from the rolls of the Church.
At around the time when the LDS Church tried to conceal its involvement
in fundraising for anti-gay causes in California, Kathy wrote several articles for The Pillar, the local gay paper in Utah, showing
proof of the church's involvement. She also organized a campaign to
help disenchanted Mormons, straight and gay alike, resign from the
church and "send a message to the church that its manipulation
of California politics... is objectionable and offensive to many people,
including members of the church.”
Kathy's contribution to the GLBT community are many. Between 1991 and
1995 she edited the Womyn's Community News, a monthly newsletter
for lesbians. Over the years the publication attracted 1,000 readers
from Seattle to Bridgeport, Conn. She spent 15,000 of her own money
and thousands of hours working on that project. Between 1992 and 1999
she facilitated a women's peer support group, first at her home and
later at the Stonewall Center. After 1999, she organized a similar
group at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center (today the Pride Center).
Kathy met her wife Sara Hamblin in 1992. They had a commitment ceremony a year later. In 1997, two years after Sara was diagnosed with cancer, Kathy fought the U.S. Postal Service to be allowed to take open-ended leave to care for Sara under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. Kathy's request was denied twice, but she tried one more time and won approval. Kathy and Sara were legally married in Canada in 2003.
Family and friends were hesitant to say how she died at first, but on Thursday, Kathy's daughter, Lucy Juarez, said her mother committed suicide. After losing her partner of 14 years, Kathy had fallen into a deep depression, stopped participating in the community, and let her friends fall by the wayside. Kathy still worked full time at the U.S. Postal Service, but she was lonely and struggled to wake up most mornings without Sara. Kathy had contemplated suicide throughout the year, and family and friends tried to get her help and support her.
"I’d rather just be up front about it because that was
the way my mother was,” Lucy told The Salt Lake Tribune.
"We are in no way ashamed about her depression or the way she
died. We wish we would have been able to save her.”
A memorial service for Kathy will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday,
March 4, at I.J. and Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center, 2 N. Medical
Drive, Salt Lake City.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Utah Pride Center (www.utahpridecenter.org) or Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (www.bestfriends.org).
A tribute to both Kathy and Sara may be found at www.geocities.com/kathywut/homepage.html.
Kathy's passing was noted in the April 10, 2007 issue of The Advocate
(see page 19, "Transitions”).
Tribute by David Nielson:
Kathy's contribution to the Mormon world has shaped many, many pieces of policy and viewpoint, even if TBM's refuse to acknowledge it. While it was possible before for an individual to have their name removed from Church rolls, it was difficult and required a lot of guesswork. Kathy created resources to make it an easy, definite process. She and her partner were also the greatest test case, before or since, for FMLA-style leave within the Postal Service. At her insistence, management of our postal facility set a precedent for gay couples to get the same treatment as straight couples, when caring for ailing partners. She was a friend to me at the Postal Service, and I am still very sad and incomplete because of her passing.
Joe Timpson, who worked with me and with Kathy at the Remote Encoding Center here in Salt Lake City, was also a gay former Mormon. These two people both took their lives within weeks of each other. The reasons for suicide are never simple--there's never just one reason--but looking at these cases, I have to stand up and say, as I have said before, WE ARE STILL LOSING TOO MANY GAY MORMONS TO SUICIDE. Who are we being that will bring GLBT Mormon suicides to an end?