Gay blogger disinvited to Utah Pride Festival

Shortly after inviting a liberal blogger to co-grand marshal of the Utah Pride Parade along with soccer player David Testo, the Utah Pride Center withdrew its invitation due to his criticism of some Mormon Church policies, according to a press release from the center. Joe Jervis is the author and creator of the queer news blog Joe My God and a human rights activist. Jervis was invited by Valerie Larabee, the executive director of the UPC, and later disinvited by her, according to the press release.

Larabee said in a written statement that after an unnamed board member voiced concern that Jervis is too critical of the Mormon Church she decided to uninvite him to the festival in order to appeal to a wider audience.

“I want to own my role in not having the strength to do the right thing and honor our invitation to Joe.” Larabee said. “I couldn’t see my way clear to avoid the conflict that was brewing and I couldn’t sugar coat things with Joe. If anything is to be taken away from this episode in our history I want it to be the tremendous pressures we feel every day to hold our entire community in a place where their opinions and needs are addressed. My integrity may be intact, yet my relationship with Joe and with some others implicated because of my lack of strength is not. “

Larabee said she would not cite or comment on any specific instances of offense committed by Jervis. She also said that she and others are working hard to maintain a relationship with the Mormon Church, its members and Mormon allies.

“As an organization, we celebrate LGBTQ Mormons and our Mormon allies. Last year, we were honored by the participation of Mormons Building Bridges in the Pride Parade. This year, we again welcome everyone to participate in an even larger celebration of diversity and unity in Utah. Please join Grand Marshal David Testo,” the UPC statement read.

Statement of the Utah Pride Center Board of Directors regarding the selection of the Grand Marshal for the 2013 Utah Pride Festival:

David Testo, the first openly gay professional soccer player in North America was the first to be offered and to accept an invitation to serve as grand marshal for the 2013 Utah Pride Festival. The Utah Pride Center is honored to have him serve in that capacity as an inspiration to LGBTQ athletes and youth.   The grand marshal has traditionally been chosen by the Utah Pride Festival Steering Committee. The concept of having co-grand marshals at this year’s festival, as well as any contact with Joe Jervis as a potential candidate, was undertaken solely by the Utah Pride Center executive director. While multiple board members provided feedback, the decision to withdraw this option was made by the executive director alone. The decision was in no way influenced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Utah Pride Center has worked hard to build a mutually respectful relationship with the church and its members. As an organization, we celebrate LGBTQ Mormons and our Mormon allies. Last year, we were honored by the participation of Mormons Building Bridges in the Pride Parade. This year, we again welcome everyone to participate in an even larger celebration of diversity and unity in Utah. Please join Grand Marshal David Testo at the annual Pride Parade on June 2 at 10:00 a.m.

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  1. I wish they would cite reasons, I searched his blog for his posts about Mormons and all I found were facts and quotes from other people, like how the Mormon church spend 100x more on prop 8 than they claimed. Yes his views on religion are a bit much but that is what his blog is about, did they not know that before inviting him? I think that the real issue is that some people probably can not handle anyone criticizing their religion even though it has many flaws when it comes to gay rights. Should they dis-invite anyone who criticizes christian views on gays? I think it was a bit petty of them to be honest and if you look at other gay news sources it is just another reason for other states to poke fun at Utah.

  2. wow, so if this is the case then the majority of gays living in Utah should be uninvited.. I am with you on how feeling less supportive of gay pride here. seems they want to start catering to the Mormon church rather than the people they oppress.. Yay utah

  3. If one needed a textbook example of how not to conduct effective PR with community goodwill, this is it. Clearly, an internal disagreement has devolved into an embarrassing predicament that definitively shows the Utah Pride Center is not ready for the prime time when it comes to community and political leadership and advocacy. This is an organization that puts little value or attention into a public relations emphasis that should be able to accomplish much in terms of positive recognition and acceptance. This is a crisis of leadership in the organization. And, it should serve as a strong reminder that perhaps in the future, the Utah Pride Center might boost its community profile by inviting a local leader and respected individual in the LGBT community as its grand marshal. There certainly were plenty of local candidates this year who have provided much better thematic emphasis to the ideals of engagement and social bridging in the community. Then, perhaps, it would avoid these types of embarrassments that expose an unattractive culture of non-professionalism when it comes to community relations for this organization.

  4. The Utah Pride Festival and its organizer, the Utah Pride Center, has acted in many ways which some people, including myself, consider detrimental to the Utah LGBT community it is charged with serving.

    Since 2005, festival organizers, including Valerie Larabee, have published a litany of “Festival Guidelines” which range from regulating pets, cameras, audio- and video-recording devices like cellular telephones, and water bottles; to banning smoking, outside food and beverages, coolers, glass bottles and firearms. The guidelines remind all that the festival “reserves the right to search all bags and people entering the festival area. Anyone failing to comply with regulations will be asked to leave.”

    The first Pride Day event in the state was a “picnic-basket” gathering. The irony is that those picnic baskets would now be banned from the festival.

    As the owner of Stonewall Shooting Sports of Utah who was detained, questioned and removed in 2007 from the festival by Larabee and Salt Lake City Police Department officers for possessing a lawfully unconcealed firearm (which the festival guidelines then didn’t ban), I know first hand how the festival organizers enforce their regulations arbitrarily. At least the police chief apologized for his agency’s involvement in what he called a “mistake.”

    Now, it appears that the festival organizers want to ban certain individuals by excluding one of its grand marshals because of his free speech.

    It is too late to worry about whether the festival guidelines will reach the level of absurd. Offending our own community, and national guests, by nullifying their rights and liberties with Orwellian regulations belies how effective the guidelines have been.

    It is time for the festival guidelines to go. Utah Pride events survived and thrived for decades before the guidelines were imposed, and will do so again without them. In my opinion, the guidelines have done far more harm to LGBT Utahns than good. Remarkably, the largest annual event in the state, the Days of ’47, relies only state and local laws, and publishes no guidelines. We could learn from that fact.

  5. SO the Mormons have again played the role of OverLords. Mormons do not treat us as equals why should we cower before their possible hurt feelings? This is just plan sad.

  6. Citizens of Utah (no exceptions): You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses, that you do accept the law of the State of Utah, in that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.

    Each of you bow your head and say, "Yes."

    That will do.

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