Thousands celebrate gay rights advances in Salt Lake parade

Deseret News, Utah/June 6, 2010

Salt Lake City - There was an air of celebration as thousands of attendees of the Utah Pride Festival gathered Sunday in the heart of a city that has banned discrimination against gays in housing and employment.

The festival's third and final day featured a raucous parade that wound through downtown to the Salt Lake City-County Building, where the City Council unanimously passed the anti-bias ordinances in November.

"I think there's a celebratory mood because we're honoring our history and looking forward to the future," said Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center. "In all of the conversations that have happened since Prop. 8 in California, we've gone from being very frustrated to having very productive dialogues in the state of Utah, and people are very excited about that."

Anti-discrimination measures, like the Salt Lake one that received an endorsement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have also passed in the past year in Logan, West Valley City and Park City and are under consideration in several other places. Legislators decided not to take statewide action in this year's session, and Gov. Gary Herbert has expressed his preference to tackle the issue at the local level.

Pride Center spokesman Michael Westley told The Associated Press that attendance this year appeared to be more than the record of 20,000 set in 2009.

Sunday's parade saw many participants dancing along to booming music and enjoying a hot, clear day in a minimum of clothing. The crowd held its loudest applause for a float backing marriage equality, with a male couple and a female couple dressed in wedding attire.

Other floats promoted adoption by same-sex couples and other gay-rights causes. Dozens of people at the tail end of the procession carried a giant rainbow flag stretching half a block.

"God said love everyone. No exceptions," read one parade sign. Another proclaimed, "Those who demean gays demean themselves."

A handful of demonstrators at the corner of 100 South and State Street held signs telling parade attendees to "fear God" and "read the Bible."

Several Democratic candidates for various political offices took part in the parade, including Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, who is running for governor.

The parade's grand marshal was theater character Sister Dottie S. Dixon, a Mormon mom - portrayed by Charles Lynn Frost - who has to come to terms with her son coming out of the closet.

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