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Salt Lake City Council says LGBT group deserves a spot in parade

Salt Lake City Council says LGBT group deserves a spot in parade
Members of the Mormons Building Bridges march during the Utah Gay Pride in Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 2, 2013.
Members of the Mormons Building Bridges march during the Utah Gay Pride in Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 2, 2013. Rick Bowmer, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Council is decrying the rejection of a Mormon LGBT group’s proposed float in Utah’s most popular parade, but it won’t pull out of the event.

Council members on Tuesday voted unanimously to stick to their original plan of marching in the Days of ’47 Parade. They considered boycotting the celebration in recent weeks after organizers turned down Mormons Building Bridges, which seeks to improve relations between Mormons and the gay community.

But they’ll also send a letter urging parade organizers to reconsider their decision, they said.

Days of ’47 organizers last month said such a float could spark too much controversy, distracting from the celebration honoring the Mormon pioneers’ 1847 arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. They say it’s their policy to reject any group that they believe will ignite political debate. But the group says the proposed convertible car would’ve steered clear of political issues.

“Our job is to remember the pioneers, and we don’t want people to have to take positions down the road on this float or that float,” Executive Vice President Greg James told The Associated Press earlier this month. Advocacy groups don’t have a place in the parade, no matter their message, James said. “We make no value judgment on these things.”

The event’s organizers have “quirky” rules, but it makes sense for the council to participate in celebrating the founding of Utah’s capital city, Councilwoman Lisa Adams said. “We represent Salt Lake City.” Individual members may choose to sit out the July 24 event.

The letter, council members said Tuesday, will cite the city’s nondiscrimination policy that has been endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some said the council may ask outspoken same-sex marriage proponent and openly gay state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, to join them as they march in the parade.

Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall and others on Tuesday said that they believed the letter would be more effective than a boycott.

But council member Luke Garrott countered the “suggestion for a boycott is a good one.”

The Salt Lake Tribune reports ( Mormons Building Bridges, founded in 2012, has marched by the hundreds in Utah’s second-largest parade, which takes place during the Utah Pride Festival and celebrates the state’s LGBT residents.

The organization proposed a convertible car of Utah arts, business and other leaders who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and have Mormon heritage. It would have been the group’s first Days of ’47 appearance.

Organizers say about a dozen applications are denied each year.

The parade of 100 floats draws about 250,000 onlookers and a TV audience of about the same size. A private nonprofit runs the parade, but the LDS Church is a large sponsor and its presidents often participate in the event.

The church has not publicly commented on Mormons Building Bridges.

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