ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News)- Commuters along St. George’s busiest streets are being greeted by dozens of rainbow banners and flags to promote the fourth annual Southern Utah pride week, the nonprofit Pride of Southern Utah’s celebration of equality and unity.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike said that while the underlying message of the organization focuses on community, love, and respect, many in the community have taken to social media with hateful and unkind comments, sparking a discussion among city leaders on St. George’s banner policy.
Linda Stay, a board member of Pride of Southern Utah, said more than 200 pride flags are flying in the breeze in St. George, Cedar City, and Hurricane because many want to show encouragement, adding that the majority of supporters are not members of the LGBTQ community, but allies. Pride of Southern Utah paid for and hired private workers to hang the banners, she said.
“Visibility will save lives,” Stay added. “There’s youth and adults in our community living in the closet feeling like they’re not safe to come out, so when they see the banners it’s mind-blowing. They’ll know the allies are coming out, being vocal and visible.”
City Councilwoman Michele Randall said she wants to change the city’s banner policy to prevent political flags, not because of the Pride banners but for “any and all future banners that cause the community to spew hatred, divisiveness, and discontent.”
“I want everyone to feel safe and accepted in our community, and the hateful comments and name-calling on social media are disheartening and disturbing,” Randall said. “I do not want to see Straight Pride Banners! I do not want to see Trump Banners! I don’t want to see any banners for any special interest or political group hanging from city poles.”
Stay said there’s a misunderstanding that Pride of Southern Utah is a political group.
“We’re not pushing any agenda at all,” Stay said. “The organization is a place where the LGBTQ community can feel safe and accepted, coming together with people like them and realizing they’re not alone.”
Pike said the policy on banners being placed on city poles is “very open” and likely needs to be revisited, voicing his concern for any hate groups that might choose to express their views publicly.
“We’ve got to be really careful to make sure that all feel welcome and no one feels that we’re a community that welcomes hate of any kind. We just want to make sure we have a policy that reflects that,” Pike said.
2019’s pride week culminates with a festival on Sept. 21 at Town Square Park. More information can be found on the Pride of Southern Utah website.
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