Equality Celebration to cheer advances made in the state

In one of Southern Utah’s largest annual queer gatherings, the Equality Celebration will feature filmmakers Dustin Lance Black and Reed Cowan this year. The dinner, silent auction and gala will be held May 18 at the Dixie Convention Center in St. George, Utah.

Black is the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk, J. Edgar. He was also the Utah Pride Festival grand marshal last year. Cowan is a former Utahn who wrote and directed the Sundance Film Festival selection 8: The Mormon Proposition.

“Equality Celebration is really a celebration of community and the LGBT community within the grander scale of Southern Utah,” said Equality Utah Executive Director Brandie Balken.

The event is in its third year and has continued to grow. This year, more than 400 participants are expected and the location has changed to a larger room to accommodate the growing need.

“I think what we’re seeing is the continuous growth of the LGBT community. For a long time there was this belief that you had to live in Salt Lake City to make a difference. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. There’s energy and effort all around the state and things are really happening all over for equality,” Balken said. “We’re seeing individual communities stepping up and making a difference.”

With 16 municipalities around the state enacting anti-bias protections, the movement toward equality is greater than ever, Balken said. This year promises to be especially powerful with a statewide nondiscrimination bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Stephen Urquhart, out of St. George, she said.

The event is a perfect opportunity to see gorgeous St. George, meet new people and experience a spirited audience of equality-minded individuals, Balken said. Black will give a speech and meet with audience members in an intimate gathering, she said.

“Black is very vested in the work we’re doing in Utah. He sees the benefits of local politics. And I think he was more than happy to be present for this event, which is really at the heart of local and grassroots organizing,” she said

Tickets are $75 per person and include a reception, dinner, entertainment and an after-party. To sponsor the event or purchase tickets, go to equalityutah.org.

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