LGBTQ entry yanked at last minute from Provo 4th of July parade

First Published      Last Updated Jul 04 2017 08:18 pm

About face » Freedom Festival officials conclude group initially accepted as nonprofit was advocacy group.

An LGBTQ resource center was cut out of the America's Freedom Festival Parade Monday evening, hours before its members were planning to march in the Independence Day celebration in Provo.

More than 100 young men and women were set to take part in the entry by Encircle, executive director Stephenie Larsen said Tuesday morning.

Encircle, a Provo-based nonprofit, had been accepted in the annual gala several weeks ago, Larsen said. But Monday, she said, she was notified the organization had been disqualified because parade officials deemed it an "advocacy group."

As a 501(C)(3), the organization is not allowed to advocate, Larsen explained.

"We are simply a resource center for these kids and their families," she said. "I just think it's unfortunate. We just want to be good members of this community."

Supporter Beverly Christensen Soutas said the action was "disheartening."

"It's one more time these kids are rejected and marginalized," she said. "They are claiming Encircle is an advocacy group. Of course, the Provo Freedom Festival is not going to come out and say, we won't let you in because you support gay youth."

Encircle will not make a fuss, Soutas said, because the group doesn't want to make waves in the community.

"But that doesn't mean that those of us who are supporters can't make waves about this and get it out there," she said in a Facebook post. "Please get this out. Yet another case of the LGBTQ community being marginalized here in Utah."

Parade officials could not be immediately reached Tuesday.

Its website, however, contains the following: "America's Freedom Festival at Provo is a private, non-profit, non-political foundation whose mission is to celebrate, teach, honor, and strengthen the traditional American values of God, family, freedom, and country."

It is funded by private donations, as well as state and local government contributions.