Utah Festival changes course after rejecting LGBTQ groups sparks controversy

Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer via CNN.

(CNN) Five support organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns will reportedly be allowed to participate in next month’s July Fourth parade after reaching a compromise with America’s Freedom Festival, the parade’s organizer.

Kendall Wilcox, a member of Mormons Building Bridges, said the LGBT organizations plan to consolidate into two parade entries, including a float provided by festival organizers.

“That’s a huge sign of good faith and good will,” Wilcox said. “It’s a slight miracle — or a big miracle, frankly — that we walked out of there with a compromise.” 

The LGBT organizations’ individual parade applications were previously denied by America’s Freedom Festival, which generated criticism from residents and accusations that festival organizers had breeched nondiscrimination clauses in its contracts with Provo City and Utah County.

Wilcox and other representatives of Utah’s LGBT community met with festival organizers for more than two hours on Thursday, in what Wilcox described as one of the most intense meetings of his life. He said there was anger, tears, frustration and pain as individuals on both sides of the issue expressed their concerns.

“It was a very human, messy endeavor,” Wilcox said. “But in the end, we had a bit of grace and that brought us to a compromise.”

Stephenie Larsen, founder of Encircle, said she anticipates reapplying separately from the two consolidated entries for her organization to march in a “pre-parade” portion of the event.

Larsen was among the participants of Thursday’s two-hour meeting. She said the time did not allow for a final determination for Encircle, which focuses on LGBT teens, but that she’s optimistic the group will satisfy the festival’s criteria for participation.

Encircle was approved and subsequently removed from last year’s parade. The organization’s treatment was a primary factor in the inclusion of nondiscrimination language in this year’s contract and was cited Thursday by county and city government leaders as an error that should not be repeated by festival organizers.

“We are so grateful that we have leaders who are wiling to stand up for what’s right,” Larsen said, “and to abide by the law and to make our community a better place.”

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The Gayly. June 16, 2018. 10:02 a.m. CST.