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After Initial Rejection, LGBT Groups Will Be Allowed In Provo’s Freedom Festival


It took a few press conferences, public outrage and a meeting that lasted over two hours, but a compromise was struck between LGBT groups and Freedom Festival organizers to allow LGBT members to participate in Provo's annual Fourth of July parade.

“The meeting was very intense. A lot of high emotions,” said Kendall Wilcox of Mormons Building Bridges. “I do not want to sugarcoat this, it was not easy.”

Wilcox said there were a lot of hurt feelings in the room. The groups learned on Wednesday they would not be permitted into the parade, just hours after festival organizers had signed a non-discrimination clause with the city of Provo. Freedom Festival receives more than $300,000 in tax dollars from the city, county and state.

Their decision to bar the groups caught many, including Provo's mayor, off guard.

"I would like the Freedom Festival Committee and Board to come together and let's resolve this — let's take it to a higher level," said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi in a live Facebook video. "Provo is better than that."

At a separate press conference held earlier Thursday, Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie threatened the festival's public funding and LGBT groups expressed their disappointment in the decision.

After more pressure from Provo city officials, the festival organizers arranged a meeting. Wilcox said negotiations were difficult, but they were able to reach a deal.

The LGBT youth resource center Encircle and Mormons Building Bridges will ride together on a float with the words, “Utah's LGBT Community Celebrates America: United We Stand.” That phrasing was a key part of the agreement, Wilcox said.

The float was donated by festival organizer Steve Shallenberger. Another group, Queer Meals, which was not present for the meeting, has also been invited to join.

The two remaining groups, PFLAG and Provo Pride, will participate with their initial proposal: carrying a quilt representing a diverse collection of Utah families.

Wilcox sees this as a major success and a move in the right direction.

“I’m stunned,” he said. “But I’m pleasantly surprised. "

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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