by Troy Williams
Today we made gay and Mormon history.
After a caustic three years of heart-break, division and the angry protests that followed Proposition 8 – a group of active Mormons stepped forward to march in our annual Pride Parade. Their message was simple: “We Love You.” Just three weeks ago, Erika Munson formed the group “Mormons Building Bridges” on Facebook. This morning they brought over 300 active Latter-day Saints dressed in their Sunday church clothes to march in solidarity with their LGBT friends and family.
Erika told me during our interview on RadioActive that she loves gays “not in spite of who you are, but because of who you are.”
The stars were aligned. We had already invited Dustin Lance Black to return to be our grand marshal. His message mirrored the Mormons; it’s time for the healing to begin, it’s time for us to honor and preserve our families. We need to work together to stop bullying and end teen suicide.
It’s a work that the LDS and the LGBT community can both engage.
I met with Erika two weeks ago to discuss how we might best navigate the possible trouble areas between our communities. There was some concern that they might not be welcomed in the parade. We spoke frankly about the pain and the deep wounds that still divide our communities. We knew there would be people on both sides who would question the appropriateness of their presence. They were determined to move forward regardless of the fear. I was struck by her courage. It’s unprecedented for Mormons to march in a gay parade. There could be reprisals in their ward and stakes. They were determined regardless.
If we don’t take the risk now, when will we?
Lance and I, in coordination with the Utah Pride Center and Mormons Building Bridges, decided to combine our forces. Lance wanted to bring the Latter-day Saints to the front of the parade with us- to truly be a bridge between our two communities. To truly heal the divide we all agreed that we needed to march together.
We enjoyed a phenomenal weekend of receptions, parties and rallies (including the presentation of a Pride Center’s “Courage Award” to the BYU gay student club). We were having a blast – dancing, laughing, celebrating — but in the back of ours minds we were uneasy. We all nervously joked together – what if only a few people show?
We needn’t have worried.
When Lance and I arrived at the staging area there they were hundreds of beautiful Latter-day Saints in their Sunday best. We were overwhelmed with emotion. They were here, they were excited and there were many.
I had the honor of driving Lance through the cheering streets of Salt Lake City with Mormons Building Bridges marching close behind.
We were all in tears.
It’s a day we will never forget. So many people made this event happen. The Utah Pride Center organizers; Valerie Larabee & Michael Westley and their amazing staff and volunteers, Erika Munson, Kendall Wilcox, the BYU USGA club, Mormons Building Bridges, Josh Lee, Dustin Lance Black—and all of the people who cheered and supported the Mormons in their first “coming out” parade.
Erika and her fellow Saints are Latter-day Pioneers. We know now that this is just the beginning. This summer in Pride parades around the country, in New York City, DC, Seattle, Portland and more, there will be Mormons marching side by side with queers.
We are all making history.