SALT LAKE CITY — Tens of thousands of people lined six blocks of downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday for the annual Utah Pride Festival parade.
The parade highlighted a weekend of activities for the Utah Pride Festival, celebrating Utah's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
More than 60 groups registered to march in this year's parade, including many major corporations and businesses such as Smith's Food and Drug, Starbucks and Young Chevrolet.
The parade included everything from a bus full of dancing people from Moab, samba dancers, high school bands, men in Speedos and drag queens. Several groups marched wearing Cub Scout and Boy Scout uniforms.
Much of the attention, however, was on Mormons Building Bridges, a group consisting mostly of members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints marching in support of the LGBT community.
The group received a wide showing of community support during last year's parade. Because of the positive feedback, Erika Munson, one of the group organizers, said more people marched with Mormons Building Bridges this year.
"I think a lot of Mormons want to do the right thing but are scared about it, understandably," Munson said. "The LGBT and the (LDS Church) have been at odds for decades. But I think when they saw the incredible outpouring of love and gratitude we got from the crowd last year, they felt like, 'Hey, maybe I can do this step.' And they're coming to march, and they're starting dialogues in their wards and their stakes, and it's a good thing."
During the past year the LDS Church launched a website, mormonsandgays.org, that reiterates the church’s doctrinal position on sexual sin, noting same-gender attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. The site includes the stories of these with same-gender attraction and states: “With love and understanding, the church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” Church leaders also supported ordinances to eliminate discrimination in employment and housing.
An estimated 400 people marched with the Mormons Building Bridges group on Sunday, about 100 more than last year. They received a constant stream of loud applause as they walked along 400 East and then down 200 South.
Munson said the outpouring of support made her feel "incredible gratitude and real optimism about human beings' abilities to reach out to somebody who they thought was very different from them and actually finding things that they have in common."
Keith Trottier is gay and said he converted to the LDS religion. He said both his sexuality and his religion are big parts of his life, and by talking openly about it, it will help in bridging the two lifestyles.
"The LDS Church allowed me to become the kind of person I wanted to be, to have these morals, standards and foundations I was really lacking in my life," Trottier said. " I'm a lot more than my sexuality. That's a big part, but there's a lot more to me. And even the church talks about that's just one aspect of who we are."
Michael and Chelsi Archibald, of Ogden, said they have many gay LDS friends, and they marched with Mormons Building Bridges to show support for them.
"Most of what I've been taught by the (LDS Church) is to love one another and embrace people and to have Christ-like love," Chelsi Archibald said. "So when I think of my friends and wanting them to be accepted, especially in the state of Utah, I just feel like we should give them the same rights as everyone else and love them like everyone else.
"It's a matter of people understanding that our LGBT friends are people," Michael Archibald said. "It's all about just bringing people together, understanding that we have a common goal of loving one another. And it's like, we're all in it together. It's working out. It's getting better. A few years ago, it was tough. It was really rough. Now, it's slowly progressing to a place where we're slowly understanding one another."
Salt Lake City police acknowledged that a "very large crowd" filled the parade route Sunday, but they did not have an official size estimate. And they noted there were no problems along the parade route.
This year's parade grand marshal was former professional soccer player David Testo, the first professional soccer player in North America to publicly come out as gay.
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