Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Chris Detrick | Tribune file photo) Members of the Taylorsville Bennion Sons of Utah Pioneers march in the 2012 Days of ë47 Parade. Parade organizers have denied an application from Mormons Building Bridges, a gay outreach group, to march in this year's parade. The ACLU is warning the Salt Lake City Council that trying to convince organizers to reverse that decision could run afoul of the First Amendment.
ACLU cries foul on SLC Council protest of Days of ’47 flap
Parade » Council planned to write letter asking organizers to let in Mormons Building Bridges; ACLU says government shouldn’t try to influence private event.
First Published Jun 03 2014 12:06 pm • Last Updated Jun 03 2014 10:37 pm

The Salt Lake City Council could be violating the First Amendment if it tries to officially influence the decision to exclude Mormons Building Bridges from the Days of ’47 Parade, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

While the council’s intention to send a letter standing up for the group dedicated to improving Mormons’ relationships with the gay community may be understandable, it’s still "a bridge too far" for a governmental body to try to influence a private event, ACLU leaders wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"Under the First Amendment, government officials are not allowed to use their official power to attempt to sway or select the speech or association of private citizens, no matter what the cause," wrote the ACLU’s executive director, Karen McCreary, and legal director John Mejia.

Council members considered boycotting the Days of ’47 Parade, set for July 24, after organizers decided Mormons Building Bridges was too controversial to march in the state’s biggest parade. The event celebrates the 1847 arrival of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley.

The council instead decided last week to write a letter formally asking parade organizers to reverse their position, citing the city’s LDS Church-endorsed nondiscrimination policy.

The council was still reviewing the policy with the city attorney and hadn’t contacted Days of ‘47 organizers as of Tuesday, said Chairman Charlie Luke.

"It was never our intent to send a heavy-handed, threatening letter," he said.

Days of ‘47 spokesman Greg James pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the issue in 1995, when it ruled Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers weren’t required to allow a gay and lesbian group to march in the parade.

"The ACLU is correct that the government shouldn’t use its position to try to create a bully pulpit for any advocacy group on any issue, not when it’s a free speech event," he said. Parade organizers haven’t been in touch with the ACLU.

"The challenge is, once you let an advocacy group in … you have no standing to say, ‘Well, I’m not going to let other groups in,’" James said. "Then the parade becomes point and counterpoint instead of celebrating our message … which is about the founding of the state and pioneers coming here."


story continues below
story continues below

Mormons Building Bridges leaders have said their group works hard to avoid being political.

The ACLU wrote that if Salt Lake City council members disagree with the parade’s decision, it would be "perfectly appropriate" for them to skip the festivities in protest.

But using "official tactics, like sending a letter on council letterhead that mentions municipal code," could put the body on the wrong side of the First Amendment, warned the ACLU.

"After all, the First Amendment is at its strongest and is most important," the letter states, "when protecting speech that the government disapproves of or that is otherwise controversial."

Tribune reporter Chris Smart contributed to this story.

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lwhitehurst



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.