PROVO, Utah - The denial of a group associated with the LGBTQ+ community in Provo’s Fourth of July Freedom Festival Grand Parade last year is holding up funding this year.
Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie says he can’t support spending taxpayer dollars on events that are not inclusive.
“Anytime we start to exclude groups or individuals from an event, especially a publicly funded event because their views are different than ours, I don’t think that’s American,” said Commissioner Ivie.
Last year, Encircle, a group that works to support LGBTQ+ youth and their families with a focus on suicide prevention, was told at the last minute they could not be in the grand parade.
“If we are taking taxpayer dollars to spend on something I think we have to be very careful that it’s fully inclusive,” said Ivie.
Paul Warner is the Executive Director of the Freedom Festival. He says it is not an LGBTQ+ issue but instead an effort to keep all issues out of the parade.
“We want it to be this is the United States of America, July the 4th is what we’re celebrating,” said Warner.
Marshall noted, political candidates are not allowed floats in the parade, nor are other causes.
“We don’t want the freedom festival parade to become an issue parade...whether you're for gun control or against gun control or whether you're for or against the LGBT and we appreciate what Encircle is doing,” said Warner.
The festival is seeking $113,000 in support from the county, a mix of cash and in-kind donations. Both the county and the festival continue to work together. Commission Ivie said he is a big supporter of the Freedom Festival, he just wants to make sure it represents everyone’s freedom.
“I think it’s fantastic to have differing viewpoints, I think it’s fantastic to have different ideologies expressed and on display because that’s what freedom is,” said Ivie.
Jacob Dunford, Chief Operating Officer for Encircle, released the following statement about the parade and its' funding:
"At Encircle, we seek to embrace and sustain every LGBTQ+ youth, every family, and every community. Encircle is grateful for the outpouring of love and support from the local community here in Utah. Had we walked in the parade as planned last year, we are confident this community would have welcomed our LGBTQ+ youth and families with the same love and support. We continue to see the best of our community at Encircle. We hope to teach individuals to love themselves and empower families to help cultivate an environment in which LGBTQ+ individuals can thrive."