What’s good for Provo on the Fourth of July isn’t going to fly in Salt Lake City on Pioneer Day: The LGBTQ support group Mormons Building Bridges has been rejected once again for the Days of ’47 Parade.
Erika Munson, the group’s co-founder, said Wednesday she received the rejection of Mormons Building Bridges’ application in May. It’s the fifth straight year the group has applied to be in the parade, which rolls through downtown Salt Lake City on Tuesday.
“We were considered an advocacy group,” Munson said, “even though the LDS Church advocates for all kinds of good causes all the time” and participates every year.
Greg James, executive vice president of the Days of ’47, responded: “They’re an advocacy group, and we don’t allow advocacy groups.”
Mormons Building Bridges and other Utah LGBTQ groups earned a victory earlier this month, when they were allowed for the first time to join the America’s Freedom Festival Parade in Provo on the Fourth of July. That inclusion came after Provo and Utah County negotiated nondiscrimination clauses in their contracts with the Freedom Festival — and some government officials threatened to re-examine how tax dollars support the Independence Day parade.
“With [the Days of ’47]," Munson said, “we don’t have the clarity of tax dollars as leverage.”
The Days of ’47 Parade is run by a private nonprofit. “We take no taxpayer money,” James said. “We’re a completely private organization.”
Both Salt Lake City and the city’s Police Department are listed as Days of ’47 “sustaining sponsors,” the lowest level of sponsorship, but James said, “that’s more an acknowledgment of their effort” as the parade’s host city.
James said there was a second reason Mormons Building Bridges' application was rejected: “They applied as a religion."
Munson countered that her group checked the “religious float” box on the application. “We applied as a religious float because we are a faith community,” Munson said. “We represent Mormons who are interested in reaching out to the LGBT community.”
Munson said parade organizers also noted “our proposal was not connected enough to the Days of ’47 theme.” This year’s theme is “Pioneer Stories — Foundation for the Future.”
Mormons Building Bridges and other LGBTQ groups had meetings with America’s Freedom Festival for months, ahead of this year’s breakthrough, Munson said. “We have asked for a meeting [with the Days of ’47]," she said. “They have not even done that.”
With the continued rejection of LGBTQ groups, Munson said, “I just feel this parade has become actively divisive. People who do not consider themselves mainline LDS, and plenty of us who do, do not consider this their parade.”
One of the event’s main supporters, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “could make this an inclusive parade,” Munson said. “They care about community and about suicide prevention, and they care about gay kids seeing themselves in a parade like this.”