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Utah LGBTQ+ Chamber pulls event from Zions Bank Founders Room

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The Utah LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce moved an event planned at the Zions Bank Founders Room after the bank pulled support for Boise Pride over threats relating to a “Drag Kids” event.

The group’s annual LGBTQ+ Economic Summit, scheduled for September 22, will be moved to the Community Opportunity Center, at the Columbus Center, in South Salt Lake.

Earlier this month, Idaho State Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, chair of the Idaho Republican Party, publicly opposed planned youth programming at the Boise Pride Festival. Her office released several statements urging the public to contact festival sponsors to express their “disappointment” and “consider removing [their] financial support or patronage” of those sponsors.

As a result, Zions Bank received many calls, texts, emails, and other communications, some threatening violence, condemning its support of Boise Pride.

Zions Bank issued the following statement on its Twitter feed in response:

“Over the years, Zions Bank has supported a variety of Pride events because they are an important part of our support for our LGBTQ employees and allies and are representative of our efforts to foster an inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace and community. This support for all of our employees and communities remains unchanged. However, when we committed to our sponsorship of this year’s Boise Pride event, we were unaware of the event’s activities involving children/minors. Since learning of these specific activities, we have made the decision to withdraw our participation in this year’s Boise Pride event and have communicated this to the event organizers.”

“The Chamber and its members value Zions Bank’s strong commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and its support for many community organizations,” the Chamber released in a statement. “However, we are deeply saddened by this decision that goes against Zion’s own standards and our expectations for our corporate partners.”

“Historically, one of the most pernicious weapons enemies of the LGBTQ+ community have used against us is to equate homosexuality (and later any non-heterosexual or -cisgender identities) to pedophilia,” the statement continued. “This rhetoric fell out of favor for a time but has come back in full force in recent years. Nationwide, LGBTQ+ and gender-diverse youth are under attack, and anyone who supports them is labeled a ‘groomer’ or a pedophile. We see these attacks take the form of banning books, ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws, bans on gender-affirming medical care, trans sports bans, declaring parents’ support of trans kids to be child abuse, and support for conversion therapy.”

Chamber leaders say that LTBQ+ youth are paying the price.

According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 45 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth. Fourteen percent said they attempted suicide. That number rises to 20 percent for gender-diverse youth. Rates of violence, discrimination, homelessness, and poor mental health outcomes continue to increase.

Affirming families, affirming communities, affirming spaces, and LGBTQ+ representation are the antidotes to these problems, Chamber leaders said.

“Opportunities for kids to meet and see others like themselves are powerful. Providing a safe space for them to express and explore their identities is equally imperative. Youth without these opportunities turn to unsafe or harmful behaviors instead, up to and including self-harm and suicide,” the group stated.

“Many members of our community experience daily persecution, violent threats, and harassing communications such as those Zions received,” they continued. “Rather than condemn these threats and harassment, Zions withdrew its support for Boise Pride. Whether intentionally or carelessly, Zions Bank’s public statements support the idea that being LGBTQ+ is wrong and that affirming our youth in their identities harms and corrupts them. These statements reinforced the disgusting and harmful dogma surrounding the controversy and taught our adversaries that violent tactics work.”

“We respect Zions’ concern for its employees’ safety. Every major public LGBTQ+ event faces these same safety concerns, addresses them the best they can with their limited resources, and cautiously proceeds,” they wrote. “We take these calculated risks because we know from experience that letting our enemies push us back into obscurity threatens a much more severe loss of life. Our adversaries prefer that we die quietly in the closet. We refuse. Pride is a celebration of coming out of that darkness and choosing to live. That is why we must allow our children to participate. Pride saves lives.”

The group hopes to continue working with Zions Bank leadership “to help them develop a culture of inclusion.” They will have further discussions with the bank to determine their relationship moving forward.

They call upon the bank, the Idaho Republican Party, and Rep. Moon to publicly condemn the violent threats against Boise Pride and the LGBTQ+ community.

“Legitimate political and social discourse can only take place in the absence of threats. We invite all to learn more about the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and how to best support diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in their communities and organizations,” they stated.

The Chamber can be found at utahlgbtqchamber.org and the Economic Summit event page is at utahlgbtqchamber.org/utah-lgbtq-economic-summit

The full results of the 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health are available at: thetrevorproject.org/survey-2022/

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