Pride Month Recognition Varies Throughout Wasatch Back
Utah elected officials face competing interests and a polarized electorate as they recognize, or don’t recognize, June as Pride month; some are steering clear of LGBTQ topics, while others are embracing them.
LGBTQ communities in Summit and Wasatch counties are growing rapidly. Many residents have welcomed them with open arms while others have objections - often on religious grounds - leaving those in office with stark choices on how to proceed with Pride policies.
City council members in Park City and community leaders jockeyed to appear in photos of the rainbow flag mayor Andy Beerman hoisted May 27. The flag was the first raised by any Utah city celebrating Pride month this year.
Governor Spencer Cox was not far behind, releasing a proclamation June 1 honoring Utah’s LGBTQ citizens and calling for respect for people’s diverse backgrounds. After issuing it, Cox tweeted, “Here in Utah, we strive to create a culture of hope, love, understanding and respect.”
Heber Mayor Kelleen Potter recently echoed Cox’s sentiments.
"I think government should be in the business of trying to make their communities better and trying to help people where there's not something happening already," Potter said. "But we have a community where there are LGBTQ people who have long felt like they didn't belong. And I think we do have a space that has a need for a resounding affirmative, positive message for the LGBTQ community."
However in Heber, city councilmembers enacted new restrictions preventing Pride flags on the city’s Main Street this year after blowback over Pride flags in years past.
Heber city councilmember Rachel Kahler said private sectors in the area celebrated Pride month even though the city changed its banner policy.
"It's a really fine line," she said. "It's difficult for any government entity that's trying to look at everything and balance it."
At the county level, Wasatch County councilors passed a resolution June 2 – but not without contentious, emotional debate and an abstention from Councilor Marilyn Crittenden. Crittenden said she liked the resolution’s inclusiveness but wasn’t ready to make a decision on it.
Summit County hasn't passed a similar declaration because the council only considers resolutions presented by outside organizations. Summit County manager Tom Fisher said if there had been a request, the council would have processed it. He added he thinks it would be viewed favorably.
State representatives Kera Birkeland and Mike Kohler, whose districts encompass Summit and Wasatch counties, did not respond to requests to comment for this report.
Birkeland, who represents part of Summit County, made news last year by sponsoring a bill that would have banned transgender girls from playing school sports. Gov. Cox announced he wouldn’t sign it, and the bill stalled in the legislature amid bipartisan criticism. Birkeland announced last month she plans to bring it back this year,but she plans to work with the LGBTQ community on the bill’s next version.