Governor declares ‘LoveLoud Day in Utah’ ahead of weekend festival celebrating LGBT youths

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Neon Trees frontman Tyler Glenn is embraced by friends as people gather in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 27, 2018, during a kickoff and announcements for Saturday's LoveLoud Festival.

The second LoveLoud Festival failed to earn an endorsement from LDS Church leaders, as it did for its inaugural event in Orem last year. But on Friday, festival organizers celebrated support and recognition from Utah state government.

At a kickoff for the event — to be held Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City — Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox read from a formal proclamation denouncing bullying and intimidation, acknowledging the state’s high youth suicide rate, and naming July 28, 2018, as “LoveLoud Day in Utah.”

“The LoveLoud Foundation offers hope and resilience to young people by letting them know that they are not alone,” the proclamation states, “and fosters a culture of hope, unconditional love, understanding, respect, acceptance, and inclusion.”

Cox, who is among the festival’s scheduled speakers, said Gov. Gary Herbert regularly issues proclamations that are routine and procedural. But the “LoveLoud Day in Utah” declaration, Cox said, is the result of close attention and sincere effort by the governor and his staff.

“You’re not different and we love you anyway,” Cox said. “We love you, period. Full stop, end of story.”

The kickoff celebration was held at the future Salt Lake City home of Encircle, a support center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths that began in Provo and one of the LGBT organizations supported by LoveLoud proceeds.

Dan Reynolds, frontman of the rock band Imagine Dragons and founder of the LoveLoud Foundation, became emotional as Cox read the governor’s proclamation and later as he thanked attendees for their support and interest in the event.

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Reynolds said it is not his intention that a “white, privileged, straight man” like himself be the center of a discussion around supporting LGBT youths. He said he instead hopes the LoveLoud spotlight can shift to organizations like Encircle and to the individuals who have experienced trauma and isolation due to their sexual orientation.

“I was always taught at church and my home, above all follow your heart,” Reynolds said. “Above all, follow your heart.”

Last year, the LDS Church released a statement naming LoveLoud and applauding the festival for its mission of preventing teen suicide and promoting tolerance and respect. Utah’s rate of teen suicide is among the highest in the nation, which some attribute in part to teachings by the LDS Church that it is a sin to act outside of traditional heterosexual relationships.

Ahead of this year’s event, the church released a statement that decried suicide, bullying and homelessness generally, without specifically referring to LoveLoud.

Stephenie Larsen, founder and CEO of Encircle, said Friday that a person should not be limited or defined by their sexuality. The goal of LoveLoud, Encircle and other LGBT support groups, she said, is equality for all in Utah.

“We choose no sides,” she said, “only love.”

Encircle’s Salt Lake City location, at 331 S. 600 East, will be the organization’s second, with plans to expand to a new location in St. George. The locations have the appearance of a residential property, which Larsen said is intentional to be and feel like a home that LGBT youths can go to as needed.

“The goal of Encircle is to one day be obsolete,” Larsen said. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day there was no need for houses like this?”

The LoveLoud Festival opens at 2 p.m. Saturday, with performances beginning at 3:30 p.m. The event is scheduled to include musical performances by Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees frontman Tyler Glenn, EDM star Zedd, and Lincoln Park’s Mike Shinoda, among other acts, as well as remarks by Apple CEO Tim Cook, Lt. Gov. Cox, and Steve and Barb Young.