IVINS – The fifth annual “Equality Utah Celebration” was held Saturday evening at the Kayenta Art Village in Ivins where members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as well as their friends, families and supporters gathered together for an evening of celebration and love.
An early cloudburst threatened to end the outdoor festivities before they had even begun, but rains cleared just in time for a brief rainbow to adorn the sky and welcome the LGBT community to their celebration in the desert.
Carrying the theme of “Say Yes,” the celebration was accented by an air of positivity.
“All of us here are fueled by irrational optimism,” Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams said of the attendees who had gathered to celebrate the historic progress made for a group that has often had the odds stacked against them.
It is that optimism, Williams said, that has helped the LGBT movement to sweep across the nation and to garner such victories in Utah as becoming the first red state to overturn a gay marriage ban and the recently passed nondiscrimination amendments to Utah law, 2015 General Session Senate Bill 296, which will go into effect on May 11 and offers protection in housing and employment to approximately 55,000 LGBT citizens residing in the state.
“We passed it, the sky hasn’t fallen,” Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-Utah, said of the bill that he sponsored three years in a row. “It’s a great thing and it’s a great thing for individuals, it’s a great thing for economic development; and just, I think, painting a more accurate picture of what Utah is about and what Utahns stand for, which is equality for all.”
Urquhart said he was particularly happy to be at this year’s celebration:
It’s especially fun to be here this year. This is my third year to be here and the past two years I stood up and said ‘well we have made some progress, next year’s the year.’ Fortunately this year I get to stand up and say we have made a lot of progress and this year is the year.
Organizers and guests also noted progress outside of the law as they have begun to feel more acceptance within their communities. Williams said that acceptance is growing as people begin to know them (the LGBT community) and recognize that they have similar goals and want similar things for themselves and their families.
“This event is held once a year,” event Co-chair and Volunteer Coordinator Christie Gubler said, “and gay, straight – it doesn’t matter it’s just full of love.”
The community of Kayenta was honored during the evening for their support both emotionally and financially of Equality Utah. The inaugural Equality Utah Celebration was held at Kayenta and, according to a video shown at Saturday’s celebration, the members of the community came out in numbers to support the event.
The celebration returned to its roots for the fifth anniversary paying tribute to both Kayenta’s founder, Terry Marten, and its residents.
Husband and wife duo Kristin and John Hunt, clad in tie-dyed rainbow clothing, accepted the award on behalf of the Kayenta community.
While Williams and others in attendance lauded the victories they also recognized that there is still plenty of work to be done as they move toward equality. Work, Williams said, such as passing legislation that would strengthen Utah’s hate crime laws and allow schools to recognize the children of same-sex families when they discuss family units.
Award-winning poet, Andrea Gibson was the guest performer for the evening. Gibson, according to a press release, is known for her profound poetry which focuses on gender norms, politics, social reform and the struggles of the LGBT community.
Her poem, “Say Yes,” was read in 2010 by a Utah representative at the Utah legislature in lieu of morning prayer, according to the same release.
Gibson said the poem was written as a sort of life motto and way to live her life and think about what can be created and what good can be done.
Gibson inspired and entertained attendees with stories and performances of some of her poems, she also expressed awe at the gathering and said that she felt as if she had found her people.
“I feel like the mountains are paying attention,” Gibson said when she took the stage.
An excerpt from Gibson’s poem “Say Yes”:
Play like you know the clouds have left too many people cold and broken
And you’re their last chance for sun
Play like there’s no time for hoping brighter days will come
Play like the apocalypse is only 4 … 3 … 2
But you have a drum in your chest that could save us
You have song like a breath that could raise us
Like the sunrise into a dark sky that cries to be blue
Play like you know we won’t survive if you don’t
But we will if you do
Play like Saturn is on his knees
Proposing with all of his ten thousand rings
That we give every single breath
This is for saying – yes
This is for saying – yes
Equality Utah’s South Coordinator Linda Stay, who got involved after two of her own children came out, said they felt Gibson’s poem provided the perfect backdrop for choosing the theme.
“We decided on the theme based on the poem because we felt like it does, it embodies how you should live,” Stay said. “Say yes, say yes to life, to equality, to coming out.”
Stay along with her husband were honored Saturday evening for their seemingly tireless efforts in furthering progress for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons living in Utah and around the world.
The evening, which also served as a fundraiser for Equality Utah, featured live music by the band Soul What, a silent auction, food and drinks and an after party.
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
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- On the EDge: Unlike Utah, Indiana’s homophobic Religious Freedom Restoration Act draws protests – March 2015
- State Democratic Chair visits So. Utah for social discussion on education, equality – January 2015
- Perspectives: Anti-discrimination laws, seeking power not equality – 2014
- Equality Utah celebrates progress, visibility, hope – 2014
- Local advocates of Equality Utah gather for film screening, merriment over Supreme Court rulings – 2013
- Dixie’s LGBT community celebrates Equality Utah with purpose – 2012
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