Emotional meeting: The Utah magnate acknowledges the issue is more complex than it seemed
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Larry Miller may be having a change of heart about yanking "Brokeback Mountain" from his Sandy movie theater complex.
On Thursday, Miller met with about 30 University of Utah students, faculty and administrators - some who opposed him speaking on campus today for a U. community event because he pulled the gay romance film in January.
After the two-hour discussion, where some people shared their personal stories about being gay, Miller said there were some issues he was going "home [to] think about.''
"Now, I understand how something I said inadvertently made them feel demeaned as individuals," Miller said after the meeting closed to the public and news media. "Maybe their well-being trumps my beliefs, my rights to express myself."
Still, some folks said they are going through with the "silent protest" today during Miller's speech in the student union ballroom. Organizers are calling the protest a "celebration of free speech," where they will sit holding banners and listen to Miller. His speech about the "rewards of investing in higher education" kicks off the university's first campuswide open house, Discover U. Days, this weekend.
People said Thursday's meeting was respectful, warm and honest, and they were pleased with Miller's willingness to reach out to the gay community and discuss his decision to pull the movie.
During the meeting, folks talked about coming out to their families about being gay and the heartbreak of not being accepted. Others talked about the fear of being physically harmed while walking in public with their partner, said Kathryn Stockton, the U.'s gender studies program director.
"I felt like he cared about what we had to say," said Charles Milne, coordinator of the university's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Campus Resource Center. "I wouldn't say we changed his mind, but I think he did come away with ideas he had to process."
By pulling the movie from the Jordan Commons movie complex, Miller said he thought he was demonstrating a "social statement," but he didn't think about the consequences, perpetuating gay stereotypes or "the toes I had stepped on."
"In 2006, it's wrong that they have to live in that fear," he said about the stories he heard during the meeting.
Kt Farley, a U. student and employee, started an online petition in March asking the university to rescind its invitation to Miller and issue a formal apology.
Supporters had said Miller did not represent the ideals of open dialogue and respecting different viewpoints.
About 1,600 people signed the petition that Farley called a success. She said she just wanted to make sure the university takes the gay community into consideration when making decisions.
"We're a contributing part of the campus community," she said.