SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Pride Festival is the largest fundraiser for the Utah Pride Center, and while last year more than 35,000 people were present, it’s likely that new records for attendance were set in 2015.
Utah’s Pride Parade kicked off on 200 South at 10 a.m. and continued for six blocks through downtown Salt Lake City.
It was Orem resident Scott Healy’s first time visiting Utah’s Pride Parade. He and his wife brought their daughter and decided to make a day out of it.
“I have pride in myself,” he said. “I’m a heterosexual married guy, people have pride in themselves. Doesn’t matter what you are: gay, straight, whatever! Have pride in who you are, come out and celebrate life.”
The theme for this year's festival was "Pride is...", with participants being invited to finish the sentence.
“Pride is love, there is so much love here,” one attendee said while standing next to her partner--who added, “Pride is being able to walk around and be ourselves and be together like a normal couple.”
Some of those marching included members of the Boy Scouts and the U.S. Fire Service. Local fire and police departments waved and handed out stickers, and as usual Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank was there participating as well.
One of the largest groups marching in the parade was the group Mormons Building Bridges, which is made of up of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who advocate for equality for the LGBTQ community.
Camille Baily Aagard has served in various positions in the LDS Church as a lifelong member, including as a Relief Society president and a missionary.
“Even though it’s in direct opposition to the current position of the church, I take a stand,” she said. “…It grows every year, and I was marching today with Relief Society presidents, and a bishop’s wife, and all people that have positions within the church, but all it takes is knowing one person up close and personally who is gay, and your whole regard for the issue changes.”
A few floats had weddings taking place as they traveled through the crowds.
“It was kind of surreal, but really cool. It was amazing,” Bride Brandi Flint said.
Heather Wright works for Overstock.com and received a company email asking if any couples wanted to get married on the Overstock float during the parade. Three couples were selected, including Tyler Jensen and Cynthia Whiting.
Whiting said: “It’s not gay. It’s not lesbian. It’s not straight. We’re all equal. We all deserve happiness. Yeah, we’re here to do it with them."
Over the past two years, Utah’s LGBTQ community has celebrated some victories, with a ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and the passage of Utah’s non-discrimination law. This month, the United States Supreme Court could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.
For more information about the festival, visit their website.