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Salt Lake asks Days of '47 to let in gay-friendly Mormon group

Published June 9, 2014 2:53 pm

State holiday • Mormons Building Bridges still hopes to meet with organizers.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Despite an admonishment from the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, the Salt Lake City Council has formally asked Days of '47 Parade organizers to reconsider denying the entry of gay-friendly Mormons Building Bridges from the Pioneer Day procession.

Parade organizers have received the letter and plan to discuss it at Tuesday's board meeting, Executive Vice President Greg James said Monday.

He previously said organizers rejected Bridges' entry because they feared it would create controversy.

When the ACLU learned the City Council might intercede, it objected, citing the First Amendment. Government officials, the group's letter stated, should not use their power to "attempt to sway or select the speech or association of private citizens."

The ACLU's letter was dated June 4, two days before the council actually sent its letter — late on the afternoon of June 6.

After reading the council's letter, ALCU-Utah Executive Director Karen McCreary said the organization had not changed its position.

"It violates the spirit of the First Amendment," she said.

But Council Chairman Charlie Luke said it is the responsibility of elected officials to speak to "important community issues." Further, he said, the letter was a request, not a demand or a threat.

"The Salt Lake City Council would like the Days of '47 to reconsider Mormons Building Bridges' application to participate in the July 24 parade downtown," the council's letter said. " ... This and previous City Councils and mayors have wrestled with how to promote justice, equality and inclusiveness for everyone in our shared lives in Salt Lake City."

Bridges co-founder Erika Munson did not fault the ACLU for its stance in an interview Monday, but said she was "thankful" the council entered the "discussion."

She said the consideration should not be focused on whether the Days of '47 committee has the right to organize the parade as it wishes, but whether a private event should stand as the celebration of a state holiday.

"Is it [only] a parade for LDS people or the descendants of Mormon pioneers?" she asked. "I would like to talk to the committee about that."

But parade organizers were unwilling to meet with Bridges representatives after their entry was denied, Munson said.

"I'm hopeful that one day Mormons Building Bridges will be in the parade," she said. "If it doesn't get in this year, we don't stop talking about it."

Mormons Building Bridges, founded in 2012 with the goal of improving relationships between the LDS and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, marched Sunday by the hundreds for the third straight year in Utah's Pride Parade. It was the largest entry in what has become the state's second biggest parade.

The Days of '47 Parade, marking the 1847 arrival of Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley, remains Utah's largest parade.

csmart@sltrib.com