Mormons Building Bridges is a community dedicated to making Latter-day Saint homes, congregations, and communities safe and welcoming for LGBTQ people. We are a grassroots movement of Mormons whose faith in Jesus Christ calls us to show unconditional love and support to all God’s children. We are inspired by the Freedom Festival’s mission to “instill a deeper sense of patriotism in the hearts” of those who enjoy the festivities. The principles of liberty and equality that this country was founded on — which are so respectful of religious faith, are in fact principles that both Mormons Building Bridges and America’s Freedom Festival share. Mormons Building Bridges’ twice-proposed and twice-rejected parade entries have featured LGBTQ veterans groups — members of the armed services who for too long were denied the very liberty and equality that they were putting their lives on the line to protect. Do these Americans not deserve a place in “America’s biggest and best patriotic celebration” ?
We acknowledge that the parade organizers would have the right to discriminate against groups on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity — if the organizers were willing to forgo public funding and public resources. However, we challenge the Freedom Festival to think twice about their use of the First Amendment to keep historically marginalized groups separate and apart. Instead we would invite the Freedom Festival to reflect on the words of their own mission statement and “go deeper” into the idea of patriotism.
Patriotic parades at their best are a chance for all of us to connect to something bigger than ourselves. We leave affirmed that our town, our state, our country, is worth contributing to. So… how beautiful would it be to have a Native American, a descendant of Mormon pioneers, a recent immigrant to this country, a child whose parent is deployed in the military, and a gay or trans young person who, as they watch the pageantry of the parade go by, think to themselves, “Look! There’s a part of me out there!”
America’s Freedom Festival has an exceptional opportunity this year and into the future, to send the message that in Provo, everyone is welcomed home.