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Thousands thronged the streets of downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday to watch the largest-ever Utah Pride Parade, an event that always guarantees some wild sights including men decked out in wigs, sequined dresses and high heels, and some clad only in hot pink underwear. There was even a mild-mannered male pit bull dressed in a tutu and rainbow-colored leis.
"I love it and I'm amazed how many people are here," said Park City resident Mishawnn Waugh.
But this year's 100-entry event now ranked among the largest two parades in the state seemed to signal that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has become more mainstream and has grown to the point that businesses and politicians recognize its clout.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon were among several elected officeholders with parade entries. And in a robust show of support, scores of red-shirted volunteers marched behind Wells Fargo's float, which bore the message "Take pride in a bank that takes pride in you."
ADP Insurance, Whole Foods Market, Squatters, Bud Light, the Uinta Brewing Co. and Skinworks were among several other businesses that participated. The Trapp's flatbed truck advertised a Gay Pride Steak Fry later Sunday afternoon at the bar.
Advocacy groups also marched on behalf of legislative change. For example, the Traitor Jane movement hopes to tweak Utah's adoption laws.
"We want to make it legal for second parents to adopt in a gay relationship," said Traitor Jane organizer Kyla Graham. "Too many couples break up and the biological mom takes the kids and the nonbiological mom has no rights. We call it legal kidnapping."
About 50 green-shirted members of the Utah Gay Fathers Association walked in Sunday's parade. Organized about two years ago, the association serves as a support group for gay males with children.
Twenty years ago, Mormon church leaders advised gay members to "fix" themselves by getting married, said Salt Lake City resident Miguel Gonzalez.
"So a lot of us are living with the repercussions from blindly obeying," Gonzalez said.
"We're just here to help out wherever we can" whether it's with marriage, relationships or coming out, said director Ben Visser. The association also has a Latino branch and a website, http://www.utahgayfathers.com.
A group called Light Presbyterians sang a snappy version of "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" as they walked the parade route.
"We're celebrating today because it finally passed," Presbyterian Church member Jane Taylor said of the denomination's recent national reverse in policy to now allow noncelibate gays and lesbians to be ordained. That effort took more than 20 years, Taylor added.
Temple Square, an LGBT square-dance club, also had a lively but more traditional presence as they swung their partners down the parade route. The Salt Lake Men's Choir made melody as it walked behind a banner proclaiming, "Peace, love and harmony."
A pair of protesters on the corner of State Street and 200 South held signs referencing scripture, one of which read, "Fear GOD or you will have HELLFIRE to pay."
Duchesne resident Lonnie Percival, wearing a T-shirt with a "No homo" symbol, said the Bible motivates him to take a stand against such events.
"Floods and our economy going kaput and everything that's happening that's God's judgment on this land," Percival said.
A few blocks away, Salt Lake City resident Danny Samuelson watched the tail end of the two-hour parade as Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" blasted in the background.
"Peaceful protest is your right," said Samuelson, who has attended pride events for over a decade.
"It's amazing that we live in a place where we're able to come out and be ourselves," Samuelson said of the diversity on display Sunday. "I think its cool that we're not physically fighting each other on days like this."