Queer Lounge returns to Sundance

Debate » Venue too important to boycott, gay leaders say.
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Despite calls for a Utah boycott, the Queer Lounge will return to Park City in January for the Sundance Film Festival.

Noting their displeasure with the LDS Church for its efforts to ban same-sex marriage, leaders with lounge sponsor Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation say the festival is too important to pass up.

"For many [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered] filmmakers, Sundance is their single most important opportunity to ensure their stories about our community reach a broad audience," said Neil G. Giuliano, GLAAD president.

"And they are not in a position to stay away from that opportunity."

Activists, columnists and bloggers raised the spectre of boycott when it was learned the LDS Church provided significant financial and other support to the successful campaign to pass California's Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage.

"We continue the Queer Lounge," Giuliano said, "with a desire not to be rendered silent or invisible."

Park City Mayor Dana Williams welcomed the return of the Queer Lounge and said his town shouldn't be lumped in with those opposing same-sex marriage. The mayor hopes gays and lesbians won't stay away from Sundance or Utah ski vacations.

"I don't treat anybody any differently, no matter their race, creed, color or sexual orientation," he said. "That is indicative of this community."

For the past quarter century, Sundance has been an economic engine in Utah's top ski town. Originally scheduled to fill the post-holiday void on the slopes, it looms large for the town in this year's uncertain economy.

"Our whole economic basis is welcoming everyone to this town. Historically, that's what we've done," the mayor said.

The Queer Lounge was launched during the 2004 film fest by Ellen Huang as a place where gay and lesbian filmmakers could network.

In an interview, Huang said the program has given more visibility to gay and lesbian filmmakers and provided access to film industry executives, as well as news media representatives.

Returning to Park City is the right thing to do -- even after the passage of Proposition 8, Huang said.

"It's been painful. But there is no progress without pain," she said. "I really do believe that when times are tough, you try harder."