‘I could not continue to live a lie’: Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie comes out as gay

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie speaks as he holds the American flag during a news conference to discuss the America's Freedom Festival's decision Thursday, June 14, 2018, in Provo, Utah. LGBT groups that were denied requests to participate in a July 4 parade that is part of America's Freedom Festival in Provo spoke out Thursday about being rejected even after festival organizer and Provo city officials signed a nondiscrimination deal.

Saying he needs to be honest with his friends, family and neighbors, Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie announced Wednesday that he is gay.

In a four-minute video posted to his Facebook page, the first-term commissioner describes fighting against his sexual orientation from age 9, surviving a suicide attempt at 22 and ultimately accepting himself as “a loving person worthy of love who values others and hopes to be valued.”

“There’s no easy way to say this, I might as well just jump up and say it — I’m gay," Ivie says. “That’s my reality and that’s what I need to talk to you about today.”

Ivie, who was elected in 2016 to the three-member Utah County Commission, says in the video that he and his wife have decided to end their marriage, but that she is his best friend and supporter and they plan to “move forward as a different kind of family.”

He also says he will continue to serve Utah County with all his heart and understands that his announcement will not be well-received by all.

“I’m as committed today as I have ever been to my faith, family and freedom,” Ivie says. “But I realized I could not continue to live a lie. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right for anyone.”

Tanner Ainge, who also serves on the Utah County Commission, expressed solidarity for Ivie on Twitter.

“His story," Ainge wrote, “will provide strength and hope to those feeling the lonely despair that almost took his life and has taken too many in our community.”

Utah County is among the most conservative areas in the state, with its relatively large population — second only to liberal-leaning Salt Lake County — providing a reliable and proactive voter base for Republican politics.

Last year, several support organizations for LGBTQ Utahns were again excluded from the Provo-based America’s Freedom Festival July 4th parade. Ivie objected to the exclusion, holding a news conference where he called the festival’s decision “bulls---” — he later apologized for his “cowboy English” — and threatened to rescind the event’s county funding.

The festival ultimately reversed its decision and allowed the LGBTQ organizations to participate.

"I didn’t think somebody would be stupid enough to do what they did,” Ivie said at the time.

On Wednesday, former state Sen. Jim Dabakis — who was the only openly gay member of the Legislature during his time in the Senate — praised Ivie for his support during the America’s Freedom Festival controversy.

“He was an ally,” Dabakis wrote on Twitter. “He was bold. He was strong. And turns out — he was in the closet.”

Ivie told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday that the timing of his announcement was motivated by the belief that “somewhere out there” is a younger version of himself who is confused and trying to decide if it is worth it to continue living.

“They need to know that it is,” Ivie said. “They need to know they’re valued, they’re loved.”

Ivie reiterated that he plans to complete his term on the commission. Asked if he would seek reelection next year, Ivie did not give a definite answer but added that Utah County is currently considering whether to move to a council form of government, which adds to the uncertainties regarding his political future.

“I plan on continuing my public services,” he said. “We’ll see when and how and we’ll go from there."

Ivie said the reaction to his announcement has been positive, and supportive. And he emphasized that disclosing his sexual orientation does not affect his conservative politics, which he credited with providing a foundation in his life.

“The Democratic Party should not have a monopoly on tolerance,” he said. “I hope this illustrates that you can be gay and Republican. You can believe in limited government and personal liberties.”

Derek Brown, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said Ivie’s public service has helped Utah County stay strong and fiscally responsible.

“We value his conservative voice,” Brown said, “and hope that his experience will signal to others that there is a place for them in the Republican Party.”

Aimee Winder Newton, a Republican and member of the Salt Lake County Council, also tweeted her support for Ivie, expressing her support and friendship and saying Ivie’s announcement “doesn’t change anything for me.”