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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 8, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 23
Mormons build bridges at Utah Pride March
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Mormons build bridges at Utah Pride March

by Annalisa Millo - Special to the SGN

The Utah Pride Festival has seen more than 20,000 attendees each year for the past few years, and 2012 was no exception.

Our parade this year boasted Dustin Lance Black, Oscar-winning screenwriter for the 2008 film Milk, as grand marshal. There were close to 120 floats, up from last year's roughly 90.

It's no secret that Salt Lake City, Utah, is the headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormon Church. The incendiary 2010 documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition revealed that the church was a significant backer of the campaign to repeal same-sex marriage in California.

Needless to say, this caused a good amount of turmoil and tension in our community, LDS and non-LDS, Queer and straight alike.

In an area where a religious majority dominates a secular minority, the general consensus is that our counter-culture here, particularly our Queer community, firmly stands its ground. Many from out of town agree that Utah's Queer community seems generally more outspoken than most - and considering the demographics, can you blame us?

The Utah Pride Festival has been breaking records for the past few years regarding attendance and float entries, but this year we saw an entirely new element.

Mormons Building Bridges is a group of more than 300 LDS people who skipped church to attend our Pride Festival as a display of tolerance, love, and support. The group caused a wave of emotion as they marched in the parade on June 3.

Many members of our community were deeply touched, as the majority of us were raised in the Mormon faith and are still close to LDS family members and friends, myself included. The split between religious beliefs and lifestyle choices divides our city, but in the past few years I've observed major leaps toward tolerance and support on both sides.

I was able to snag a couple of comments from Mormons Building Bridges organizer Kendall Wilcox moments before they began marching in the parade.

SGN: What's your main objective here?

Wilcox: Just to spread the message of love, and that Mormons do love LGBT people.

SGN: How do you think the reception for this will be in this kind of social climate?

Wilcox: So far, it's been amazing. So many people have come up and said 'Thank you, thank you, thank you!'

SGN: So you've received a lot of support all around?

Wilcox: Yes, exactly!

Since Sunday, I've heard countless stories of Queer people overcome with emotion to the point of tears as they stood with pride and honor and watched Mormons Building Bridges stride along the downtown Salt Lake City streets in their Sunday best during the Pride Parade. They carried signs that read 'God Is Love,' 'Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself,' and 'Jesus Said Love Everyone.'

This demonstration was a major step toward understanding and tolerance from all facets of the Utah community, helping to repair decades-old emotional scars and friction among us. We hope to see more of this and look forward to a more inclusive, dynamic, and open-minded community.

To the organizers and participants of Mormons Building Bridges, it is your example that will help pave the way for inclusion around the country. Thank you for your courage in supporting your Queer family members, friends, and neighbors. We cannot thank you enough.

Annalisa Millo is a writer and columnist for QSaltLake, Utah's Gay and Lesbian news and entertainment magazine.

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