Beginning today, messages of hope and love for LGBTQ people are being displayed on I-15 from Draper to Lehi after an incident where a banner with the words “No Sides, Only Love” was vandalized in Orem in January.
Encircle, a Utah organization supporting LGBTQ+ youth, launched the billboards in part out of concern that Utah’s LGBTQ+ youth may be feeling isolated these days.
In January, a man parked near the fence between a home and Timpanogos High School where two banners were hung, one from Encircle which read “No Sides, Only Love,” and the other a suicide prevention banner from the Trevor Project, reading “You Are Never Alone.”
In the wake of multiple suicides at their neighboring high school, Orem parents Brenda and Thomas had hung the banners to show support for their LGBTQ+ child, community, and friends.
The incident was caught on a surveillance camera but was not enough to identify the person who vandalized the banner.
“I wonder how often he has not felt accepted himself to be able to hate other people he doesn’t know,” Brenda told KUTV News at the time.
The couple also made headlines last summer when five of their rainbow Pride Flags were stolen from their yard near Timpanogos High School.
The parents then decided to do something positive about the most recent incident. They started a campaign to put the message of the destroyed banner on billboards throughout Utah.
The parents set up a fundraising campaign to raise $15,000 so Encircle could put up billboards with the message.
Two banners were created by R&R Partners — “Imagine what love can do.” and “No sides, only love.”
Five digital billboards will stream the messages along I-15. Northbound at about 142nd South near Boondocks in Draper, southbound at Point of the Mountain, southbound in Alpine across from the Adobe offices, north- and southbound in Lehi at about 800 North, and north- and southbound in Lehi at Pioneer Crossing/Main Street.
Two static billboards will also be visible southbound in Alpine on the east side of the freeway.
One donor, Jaden Christenen, said he wanted to be part of the campaign because Encircle helped him in his coming out process in Utah County.
“I was born and raised in Utah, and my coming out was rocky,” Christensen said. “Encircle supported me and helped me figure out who I was. They pointed me to resources like therapy and provided support groups.”
Christensen wanted to become more active and involved.
“All of that pushed me to get more involved in human rights and LGBTQ community, including LoveLoud and other events.”
The banner being vandalized in January deeply affected him.
“It hurt me because it’s really just a message of love. We’re not trying to overstep other people’s boundaries and beliefs,” he said. “Seeing that ripped down on her own property really hurt me. That school had experienced a number of suicides and she was offering up encouragement and support for the students.”
Christensen believes the phrase “No sides, only love” resonates with those in Utah County.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be in Utah County to see how really a phrase like ‘No sides only love’ invokes thought and separates people’s beliefs with treating people with kindness,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how people will react.”
Christensen also believes that the banners may be coming at a particularly poignant time.
“We are in divided times right now and this message of love for all humans is a perfect way to address that,” he said. “No sides only love isn’t just for the LGBT community. It should be used for everyone. It isn’t just an LGBT issue on nonacceptance. People of color, people with disabilities. There’s a lot of hate in the world and I’m thankful these billboards are going up now.”
Maybe even most importantly, Christensen said, “I don’t think they will be able to take it down.”