SALT LAKE CITY — Organizers of a prominent Utah July Fourth festival struck a deal to allow five LGBT organizations to participate in the parade Thursday, reversing an initial rejection given just hours after signing a nondiscrimination agreement with Provo city leaders.
The deal followed an outcry that included the Utah County Commission chairman threatening to rescind $100,000 in funding and an LGBT group leader denouncing festival organizers as showing “staggering bigotry.”
America’s Freedom Festival didn’t immediately comment on the deal. But a member of the festival’s board of trustees agreed to pay for a float hosting three of the groups, said Kendall Wilcox, a member of Mormon Building Bridges. The two other organizations will march with a quilt that Wilcox said represents different versions of Utah families.
Festival organizers said earlier that the five LGBT organizations were among 22 applications denied for failing to meet its specific requirements. Two of the groups had filed a joint application.
It’s unclear which requirements the groups had not met. Festival organizers said participants cannot touch on political or social issues and must focus their applications on the spirit of patriotism.
“Let’s celebrate America pure and simple,” festival director Paul Warner said in a statement after the rejections were announced.
The event had been criticized for blocking participation by LGBT groups in the past, but Wednesday’s outcry noted the festival had signed a contract Tuesday with Provo city leaders that included a new nondiscrimination agreement. As part of the contract, the city agreed to provide $150,000 in cash and in-kind contributions for the festival.
Organizers had also signed a separate contract with Utah County in March that included a nondiscrimination clause. The contract stipulates county contributions of roughly $100,000 for the event.
After the applications were rejected Wednesday, Troy Williams, the executive director of advocacy group Equality Utah, accused organizers of “staggering bigotry” and said in a statement that the disconnect between their words and actions was “astonishing as it is disappointing.”
Utah County Commission Chairman Nathan Ivie said on Twitter that he would try to pull funding for the organization.
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi had urged the two sides to work together on an arrangement to allow the LGBT groups to participate. The theme of the float agreed to Thursday is “Utah’s LGBT community celebrates America: United we stand.”
The emotional two-hour meeting Thursday involved tears, yelling and deeply painful stories, Wilcox said.
“I’m sort of in shock and pleasantly surprised at how much ground we actually covered,” he said.