This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The atmosphere at the corner of 9th and 9th on Saturday felt like a preview of Salt Lake City's annual gay pride celebration as hundreds turned out for the official rebranding of 900 South to Harvey Milk Boulevard.
There were colorful stilt walkers and balloon-makers, members of the Utah chapter of drag charity troupe Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and info booths repping a multitude of gay-owned local businesses all there to formally honor Milk, the San Francisco gay rights activist who was felled by an assassin's bullet in 1978.
Harvey Milk Boulevard, which runs from 1100 East to 900 West, joins other streets in Salt Lake City that have been named after civil rights pioneers like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez.
For Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, it was a day several years in the making.
"We initially worked with [former] Mayor Ralph Becker, who supported the idea," Williams said. "900 South is this rich neighborhood that the charm and character was in many ways built by the LGBT community. I think visitors from out of state and out of the country are going to be really surprised when they see Harvey Milk Boulevard in downtown Salt Lake City. It just shows you what a progressive, affirming LGBT culture we have here."
"In a lot of ways, people have been waiting since 1847 for this day in Utah," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, referencing the year Mormon settlers began traveling to Utah. "This is a historic, magic, wonderful day, when Salt Lake City says LGBT people are welcome, you have a place here," Dabakis said.
"I think Mormons have more in common with Harvey Milk than they think they do," said Erika Munson of Mormons Building Bridges. "Harvey Milk was all about unconditional love and acceptance, which is what Mormons are all about. But I think the gospel of Jesus Christ is about loving people for who they are. I think Harvey Milk would have loved it, so it's a really happy day."
"I am here today because of people like Harvey," said Jackie Biskupski, who in January became the city's first openly gay mayor. "He was a hero of mine, somebody I looked up to, who inspired me years after he was gone."
The program concluded with a two-song performance from Tyler Glenn of the band Neon Trees. Glenn recently generated controversy with his video for his solo single "Trash," where he is shown spitting on an altered image of Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Glenn came out in 2014 and has spoken often about his conflicts with being gay and being raised LDS.
"What a way to spend a Saturday. It's wonderful," Glenn said. "It makes me feel amazing to be a part of it. I was obsessed with Harvey Milk when I found out about him. I loved his gusto and his spirit. I always think about his courage and him standing up in front of crowds that probably hated his guts."
Glenn said he's "stoked" that his video "caused a conversation," and he hopes to become more of an activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"I don't want to be the loud idiot in the corner, but I want to be able to assist in any way I can."