Last year, the Provo Freedom Festival issued a nondiscrimination policy that included sexual orientation (yet excluded gender identity), and then immediately denied several LGBTQ organizations from marching in the annual Freedom Festival Grand Parade, July 4.
Additionally, Festival organizers had once again rejected an application for Encircle, an LGBT outreach group based in Provo, to participate in festival events. The festival also rejected the applications of several other LGBT groups, including Mormons Building Bridges, PFLAG, and Provo Pride.
Then in an astonishing last-minute turn of events that included the threat of retraction of festival funding, five LGBT groups marched in the parade including the aforementioned, plus Encircle and Queer Meals.
This year, four of those same five groups were accepted to march in either the parade or pre-parade. Opting out was Queer Meals, but is expected to be in attendance as a source of securing a safe space along the parade route for LGBT spectators.
“We did have a good response to that last year,” Queer Meals founder Jerilyn Hassell Pool told the Daily Herald. “Whether or not you’re LGBTQA, there are still people marching who deserve support we can give from the sidelines.”
Mormons Building Bridges co-founder Erika Munson told the Daily Herald that in regard to this year’s application she had some concern that there could still be some discomfort on the part of parade organizers with LGBT entries. However, when everything was approved without a hitch this year, all she felt was relief.
“I don’t want last-minute press conferences and tense meetings,” Munson said. I can do without that, thank you very much.”
However, MBB has once again been turned down to march in the Days of 47 parade in Salt Lake City for being an advocacy group. The Days of 47 is a private parade and therefore does not receive public money like the Freedom Festival does, but Munson said she believes that an event celebrating a state holiday in public areas should be inclusive of everyone.