Encircle: LGBT + Family & Youth Resource Center is an organization that fills a great need in Utah County. In an effort to promote family inclusion (as stated on its website), Encircle applied to march in the America’s Freedom Festival Grand Parade and was accepted.
Sometime in the late afternoon of July 3, two days after the conclusion of Stadium of Fire and the day before the parade, Freedom Festival organizers informed Encircle that it would no longer be able to walk in its Fourth of July Grand Parade. The reason? Organizers decided at the last minute to classify Encircle as an advocacy group. Freedom Festival claims that such groups are not allowed in the parade.
By definition, an advocacy group is an organization that uses various forms of advocacy to influence public opinion and/or policy (Wikipedia).
Encircle is not an advocacy group. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is not involved in lobbying or political campaigns. It is not in the business of influencing public policy. Its mission is a noble one, to "empower families to sustain the circle of their love, enabling each member to thrive." With teen suicide on the rise in Utah and LGBT youths often struggling to find acceptance in our community, this organization provides incredible and vital services to a portion of our population that is in desperate need of love and help.
At best, this was a shortsighted and irresponsible decision by festival organizers. At worst, it was deliberate and discriminatory. Either way, this decision was hypocritical. To revoke permission for an approved organization (and one with no history of advocacy) to march less than 24 hours before the parade while allowing other organizations that routinely influence public policy is completely disingenuous.
The name of this celebratory week is Freedom Festival. It is a week to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the evolution of the meaning of that document. When the statement "all men are created equal" was written and proclaimed, in practice it included a very limited group of men.
As our nation has grown and through the efforts and sacrifices of many incredible leaders and citizens, the vision of that statement has come to include more and more people. Despite that progress, we have not reached a point in our society where all people are treated equally. The Freedom Festival's actions are proof of that.
I hope the Freedom Festival organizers will recognize the error of their ways and include Encircle in the future. I also hope the city of Provo will put pressure on Freedom Festival to be more inclusive. Increasing Encircle's visibility will help more youths access life-changing and lifesaving resources.
No sides, only love.
Kyle Chilton is an employee of Brigham Young University. He and his family live in Spanish Fork, Utah. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Brigham Young University.