Another entry for the "My, How Things Have Changed" scrapbook.
It wasn’t all that long ago that an entire city police force might have refused to have anything to do with a festival and parade celebrating the rights of gays and lesbians, including the right to marry.
This year, in the largest city in the reddest state, there is, so far as we know, a single police officer who is involved in some kind of dispute with the higher-ups about whether he was ordered, and whether he declined, to participate in Sunday’s Utah Pride Parade.
After a dispute over whether the officer refused to do simple traffic control duty for the event, which is what the department had said, or merely expressed reluctance, on religious grounds, about participating more directly in the event, as his attorney insists, the officer is no longer employed by the Salt Lake Police.
What we do know is that some Salt Lake City Police Department officers did march in the parade, and it did sponsor a outreach and recruitment booth at the Library Square festival. (No, it wasn’t the gay folks doing the recruiting. It was the police, trying, as good departments do, to extend their reach into all the communities whose trust and understanding they must earn in order to do their jobs properly.)
The situation sounds similar to a recent case in Tulsa, Okla., where a police officer asked to be excused from an order to participate in a Law Enforcement Appreciation function at a local mosque.
Less than a month ago, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that police department’s authority to order the participation, holding that it did not require anyone to join or endorse any religious belief. Just as ordering an officer to direct traffic — or do motorcycle tricks — at a gay pride festival does not require that officer to support gay rights.
As the whole nation moves toward full equality for LGBT people, as elected officials, Boy Scouts and a growing number of Mormons in good standing happily participate in such festivities, the biggest thing we may have to worry about is that marriage equality and related issues will someday become so normal that Pride Parades and LGBT Festivals will no longer be necessary.
So enjoy the party while you can.
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