Equality celebration says ‘yes’ to optimism, love, courage

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.

L-R Jacob Perry, Spencer Jones and Jeremy Schow attend the fifth annual Equality Utah Celebration held at the Kayenta Art Village, Ivins, Utah, May 9, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
L-R: Jacob Perry, Spencer Jones and Jeremy Schow attend the fifth annual “Equality Utah Celebration” held at the Kayenta Art Village, Ivins, Utah, May 9, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

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.

Performance poet Andrea Gibson performs poetry and entertains attendees of the fifth annual Equality Utah Celebration held at the Kayenta Art Village, Ivins, Utah, May 9, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Performance poet Andrea Gibson performs poetry and entertains attendees of the fifth annual “Equality Utah Celebration” held at the Kayenta Art Village, Ivins, Utah, May 9, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

“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.

Say yes

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.

Fifth annual Equality Utah Celebration, Ivins, Utah, May 9, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Fifth annual “Equality Utah Celebration,” Ivins, Utah, May 9, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

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 loud
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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  • Uncle Fred May 10, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Why in the world does the Spectrum think this is newsworthy? Quit jammimng this staff down the throats of the public. How about an expose’ on traditional family?

    • izzymuse May 11, 2015 at 8:09 am

      UNCLE FRED, you are free to NOT read this. The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows the freedom of the press. No one is “jamming” anything down anyone’s throat. Wow. You don’t hear good things about traditional families in Utah? Hmmmm. Well, anyway, if you want an event to celebrate traditional families, go create one! No one is forcing to do anything you don’t want to do. No American has a constitutional right NOT to be offended. Freedom to express ourselves is an American right. If you don’t like a song, don’t listen to it. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it. Etc. etc. Thank God we have the freedoms we do! What, you want a country where people are killed for their opinions? Move to an Islamic state then. Don’t hate, celebrate, brother. Sheesh, relax. Have some love for your neighbors. 🙂

      • devosays May 11, 2015 at 10:04 am

        Izzy, you are avoiding his point, by contrasting an opposite point of view, not addressing his comment provides me with insight into the wisdom and education you have achieved in life. He didn’t mention that he was forced to read this, he mentioned the disproportion in the MSM reporting about such subject matters, in proportion to their population %, it is quite a known fact that an agenda exists. You say the agenda is to celebrate opinions and equality. I say it is the opposite, people like you who are ignorant to the hypocrisy that exists in the MSM and the media themselves, who own every last word of it are the problem. Your type, not you as I am not sure, speak of freedoms and equality, yet the left and MSM back Christianity at every turn, bash conservatives at every turn, prop up the Islamic state at every turn. If you can see the point, you might try replying addressing the point, not what your college professor has instilled into your brain over and over like propaganda…

        • izzymuse May 11, 2015 at 11:57 pm

          DEVOSAYS, your condescending remarks toward me – and NOT my argument and points- reflect your typical attitude and desire to treat me (FYI, I’m a married man, LDS, with children in his late 30s) to be a college kid still “wet behind the ears”. Sorry, your “parent-child” arrogance (as most conservatives try to pull, especially in this Republican saturated state) is boring and all people have heard here in Utah for the last 100 years. This article – and the few others featured on the local online news is a voice for people who most of you conservatives would love to silence IF you could find some way to bypass the constitutional rights of ALL Americans. I didn’t avoid any of his points. This area of the “good ‘ol boys” (wanna-beTexan rebel attitudes I see everyday in church, work, and community settings) is an old, dying, intolerant, and useless disregard for the equal rights of your fellow Americans. Have a good day. 🙂

          • izzymuse May 12, 2015 at 12:06 am

            PS, conservatives need to stop being so inconsistent with their arguments for “personal freedom”. Individual rights do NOT only apply to “the right to bear arms”. The U.S. constitution ensures Americans the right to a whole lot more. But the conservatives are too obsessed with “legislating morality” that they have become blind to their contradictions! Study the constitution and you will see the wisdom the founders of this great nation had. America today is blinded. You bring up mainstream media. Conservatives have their own mainstream media biased and “agendas”. I think democrats AND republicans are blinded by their own “agendas”. My focus is the U.S. Constitution. The amendments are very clear. Civil rights are and have been violated long enough.

          • devosays May 12, 2015 at 3:32 pm

            First off Izzy, comprehension apparently eludes you at most every turn you take day in and out is my guess. You didn’t address his opinion nor mine, so I will move on. You bring up the Constitution, as well as a hatred for your fellow residents of Southern Utah I might add, but no where did he or I argue this was unconstitutional, we said it was a very “agenda” driven perspective, do you get that? I think not, also, did I mention you were a college kid? No, I mentioned something about your liberal professor ramming ideology down your throat, for a few years, again with the comprehension. Lastly, you seem very angry and bitter, I feel sorry for you. If you don’t like Southern Utah, why don’t you leave? You would fit in San Fran or Seattle quite nicely, and there you could be tolerant of the the large percentage of people who share your opine, hypocrite!

          • fun bag May 12, 2015 at 4:04 pm

            uh oh, sounds like DEVOSAYS needs a crying towl for all his little tears. I’m sorry but all my crying towls are already soaked from republican whining about hilary and obama, so u will have to use your shirt sleeve this time and if you don’t like it then leave wah wah wah

        • devosays May 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm

          Funbag, are you older than 12 or is it just your illiterate self speaking through the keyboard? Grow up and join the conversation

  • SteveSGU May 10, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Let’s keep in mind that this group of people make up a small minority in our area. They get all the publicity, because they seek attention, but the large majority of people in our area do not agree with some of the simplistic (politically “correct”) conclusions of gay organizations.

    Just because a person experiences homosexual attractions does NOT mean that he or she must adopt a gay identity and change his or her values system. And just because your loved one has adopted this new gaythink does NOT mean that you have to agree with their new viewpoint in order to love them. There are plenty of people who don’t allow feelings to determine what they will do with their lives, and this proactive approach can bring a much more meaningful and profound happiness than the often superficial gay community can provide. (And I say that, knowing that there are also some sincere and truly caring people in our local gay community.)

    There are good people at events like this, believing that they are encouraging people to find happiness and believing that this kind of thing somehow supports the principle of equality. There isn’t room here to explain what all is wrong with that, but I encourage people to encourage their friends and loved ones to find a better way than giving in to modern pro-gay philosophies that really are affecting families and individuals in negative ways.

    If you know someone who experiences homosexual feelings but who doesn’t want to adopt the kind of thinking that pro-gay groups promote, know that there are people to talk to and support for you. Look up the Dixie LDS SSA Support System (importanttruths at Yahoo) and get in touch. There is more than one way to go, and some ways lead to lasting happiness.

    P.S. Don’t believe what the pro-gay folks will tell you about people who believe there is a better way. They will tell you we are preaching “hate” and other nonsense. They are too steeped in their own worldview to see anything else.

    • NotSoFast May 10, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Very politically Incorrect talk Stevie boy.
      Most honest folks hanging out at the barbershop know the pro gay folks have an agenda. It’s more political talk then most people realize. Their only Demanding that everybody accept them and praise them now. Donate to their recruiting cause (or else).

  • 42214 May 10, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Kinda reminds me of San Francisco or Seattle. It’s hip to be gay. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth, no pun intended.

  • munchie May 10, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Sounds like it was a great event, despite what the local naysayers are writing. Perhaps “Live and let live” is a motto they should look into.

    • NotSoFast May 11, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Would you hold that same view if the folks in Hilldale/ Colorado City smiled, held a fund raiser and asked for your understanding and compassion?
      Who knows, someday their lifestyle might be vogue.

      • wilbur May 11, 2015 at 7:39 pm

        Will be if USSC say says to Homo marriage, and all states have to comply.

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