Nation & World

LGBT group won't appear in Days of '47 Parade

SALT LAKE CITY — Organizers of Utah's biggest parade have turned down a float proposal from a Mormon faith-related LGBT group, citing too much potential for controversy.

Days of '47 Parade organizers say it's their policy to turn down any float they believe will ignite political debate.

"We wouldn't have the Mormons Building Bridges float in there any more than we'd have the NRA (National Rifle Association) or something else that might turn people off," Executive Vice President Greg James tells the Salt Lake Tribune.

But Mormons Building Bridges aimed to plan a float that steers clear of politics, said co-founder Kendall Wilcox. The group aims to improve the relationship between Utah's gay community and the Mormon church. It generally tries to sidestep political conversations, Wilcox said, citing that it asks Facebook users to avoid debating same-sex marriage on its page.

The organization proposed a convertible car of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and have Mormon heritage. This would have been its first Days of '47 appearance, the Tribune reported.

The 2014 parade theme, "Pioneers Pushing Toward Our Future," matched the group's mission, Wilcox said. Members of Utah's LGBT community "really are pioneers today leading to a better Utah, so why not celebrate them?" he told the Tribune.

Parade organizers say about a dozen applications are denied each year for the July event honoring the Mormon pioneers' 1847 arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.

"One of the problems in the country right now is everyone is too polarized," James said. "We're just trying to stay as neutral as we can."

Bridges leaders mentioned making the rejection public, which organizers say makes their decision justified, James said.

The group made the announcement Tuesday on its website.

Mormons Building Bridges organizers tried to appeal the rejection but were denied, Wilcox said. The group plans to reapply and is considering attending the parade this year in T-shirts with the organization's name.

Organizers contend the group was turned down for other reasons, too, including a late, incomplete application. But Bridges leaders say no one told them the application wasn't satisfactory.

More than 100 floats constitute the parade that draws about 250,000 onlookers and a TV audience of about the same size. A nonprofit runs the parade, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a large sponsor and LDS Church presidents often participate in the event.

The LDS Church has not publicly commented on Mormons Building Bridges.

Mormons Building Bridges has marched for two years in the Utah Pride Festival, which celebrates LGBT residents and is the state's second-largest parade. The group formed in 2012.

The group gathers monthly at libraries, participates in a suicide-prevention walk and helps centers for young homeless people.

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