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The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday ruled out a proposed boycott of the Days of '47 Parade because event organizers had rejected as too controversial a float application from a group trying to improve relations between Mormons and the gay community.
Council members decided to take part in the parade (although individuals members can sit it out in protest). But the council also will send a letter of opposition to organizers who decided to exclude a parade float sponsored by Mormons Building Bridges.
Citing the city's nondiscrimination policy which the LDS Church endorsed and extolling the values of inclusiveness, the council letter will formally ask parade organizers to reverse their position.
And don't be surprised if state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, a leading figure in Utah's gay community, is invited by one of the council members to accompany the city delegation in its golf carts or on bicycles in the parade.
"It's not necessarily disruptive for us to do something like that," suggested Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall.
Days of '47 Parade officials earlier this month denied Mormons Building Bridges' float application as outside the guidelines for the July 24 event to commemorate the Mormon pioneers' 1847 arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. The celebration is Utah's biggest parade.
"The parade is very specific in its requirement that no float can enter that will create controversy," Executive Vice President Greg James said earlier in explaining the group's decision. "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."
"We don't take a position on any issue," James said. "One of the problems in the country right now is everyone is too polarized. We're just trying to stay as neutral as we can."
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.
For its first Days of '47 appearance, the group had proposed a convertible car with eight people on board from Utah arts, businesses and nonprofit organizations, explained Bridges co-founder Kendall Wilcox. Those on board would be Mormon or have LDS heritage and also be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
He earlier expressed disappointment with the rejection, saying Mormons Building Bridges members "were shying away completely from any sort of politics. ... We worked hard to stay within their guidelines."
While Salt Lake City Councilman Luke Garrott said Tuesday he felt the "suggestion for a boycott is a good one," Mendenhall and several colleagues said such actions don't work and that there are better ways to send a message to parade organizers.
"One alternative may be to bring pioneers of a new flavor," said Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, suggesting someone who was married after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby on Dec. 20 overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage. "That could be our contribution to the pioneer spirit of the 21st century."
In the end, the council unanimously concurred with Councilwoman Lisa Adams' position that while parade organizers may have some "quirky rules … the parade is about the founding of Salt Lake City … and we represent Salt Lake City."
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