Equality Celebration raises money, awareness for LGBTQ community

ST. GEORGE — The 6th annual Equality Utah Celebration held Saturday at the Dixie Center St. George raised money for Equality Utah and sought to raise awareness of issues faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

The 6th Annual Equality Utah Celebration was held at the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, May 21, 2016 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News
The 6th Annual Equality Utah Celebration was held at the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, May 21, 2016 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News

The theme of the event was “Old Hollywood” and many who attended were dressed in styles from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s.

Celebrity impersonator Jason CoZmo entertained the audience with impersonations of Dolly Parton and Marilyn Monroe. Live music, dancing, a red carpet walk and a silent auction with work from local artists up for bidding were also featured at the event.

Local journalist Matthew Jacobson was honored with an “Excellence in Advocacy” award and said the issues faced by those within the LGBTQ community of Southern Utah are very different than in other parts of the United States.

“It actually is a lot different than it is … if you go to California or New York where there is a hub of LGBT people and allies in those states,” Jacobson said.

“In Utah, it is very interesting because of the dominant religion here, which is Mormonism. So you’ll get most of the LGBT people here are actually Mormons themselves, or they were raised Mormon or they have Mormon friends and family.”

Having that background with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ingrained in most of the Utah LGBTQ community, Jacobson said. With approximately 10 percent of Mormons identifying as gay, that has caused some friction, especially with the recent decree by the church that children of gay couples would not be allowed to be baptized.

The 6th Annual Equality Utah Celebration was held at the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, May 21, 2016 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News
The 6th Annual Equality Utah Celebration was held at the Dixie Center, St. George, Utah, May 21, 2016 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News

Despite that tension, most of the LGBTQ community within Utah would still want to be a part of the Mormon church if those issues were resolved, Jacobson said.

A nondiscrimination bill passed in 2015 and crafted with input from the church was a positive step forward.

“There was a very real chance that you could get fired or kicked out of your house because you were LGBT,” Jacobson said.

Several years before the passage of the nondiscrimination bill, Jacobson went in front of the St. George City Council to ask the city to pass a similar bill but found the council was not receptive to his proposal. His attempt to sway the council was one of the reasons Jacobson was honored.

Associate Professor of English at Dixie State University Susan Ertel was likewise honored for her advocacy of LGBTQ students at the university.

The 6th Annual Equality Utah Celebration was held at the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, May 21, 2016 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News
The 6th Annual Equality Utah Celebration was held at the Dixie Center, St. George, Utah, May 21, 2016 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News

Emcee Kent Harrison Hayes was thrilled to be able to take part in this year’s proceedings. A professional actor, Hayes had been unable to join the Equality Utah celebration in previous years due to commitments.

“I think it actually went really well,” Hayes said. “I’m a longtime supporter, obviously as a gay man in Utah, but I’ve never been able to participate in Equality Utah before, because I’m an actor and I’ve been doing other things, so to be a part of this and to actually be able to have a pulpit, to give my two bits was great.”

Mike Weinholtz, Democratic nominee for Governor of Utah was on hand for the event and came away impressed by the celebration.

“The Equality Utah event tonight was fantastic,” Weinholtz said, “everyone had a good time, they raised a lot of money to support the organization, which is a great cause because they fight for the equality of all Utahns. I think everybody had a great time.”

I believe in equality for all of us,” Weinholtz said.

Jacobson said one of the most important areas of focus for himself and many within the LGBTQ community was the issues of suicides among young people.

“That’s a dialogue we need to open, and we need to let these children know that there is a better tomorrow,” Jacobson said. For many gay, lesbian and transgender youth it is very difficult to feel like they can live in harmony with the church, but that is still no reason to take their own lives.

“This world needs you in it,” he said. “This world would be a worse place without these young minds in it, these creative and wonderful and loving young minds.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • ladybugavenger May 22, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. Marriage is between a man and a women.

    I know you shouldn’t be fired from a job or not get housing because you’re gay. People shouldn’t discriminate like that in this ungodly world.

    As far as a church they shouldn’t perform gay marriages. Leave that to the secular world and government to perform.

    Hate the sin, don’t hate the people.

    I hated my son committing crimes and doing meth, but I didn’t hate my son. It’s no different. Sin is sin. Some sins are harder than others to overcome.

    One can turn from being an addict and a criminal. But it seems lust of the flesh female to female, man to man, and sex changes are not overcome but instead indulged in. Sodom and Gomorrah.

    But don’t discriminate people. One sin is no greater than the other. How many of you have murdered people in your hearts? God says it’s the same as committing murder. How many of you will murder me in your hearts for writing this? Sin is sin.

    • fun bag May 22, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      there was an experiment done where a bunch of mice (or rats, i forgot) were put into an good sized enclosed living space and given all the food they wanted, etc. After breeding and overpopulating the enclosed habitat their behavior changed. They became somewhat self-destructive and exhibited what we’d consider degenerate behavior (homosexual, violent, antisocial, etc). What we see in the world today, as far as people, is beginning to look a lot like that rat experiment, and their are no easy answers. Just think, in the past our ancestors spent all their effort on just trying to survive, really. Now we’ve shifted from that, and people can’t even decide what sex they want to be, and whether or not to mutilate their genitalia for whatever whim. i aint religious but it really does begin to look like Sodom and Gomorrah at times.

    • .... May 23, 2016 at 2:16 am

      Your God made Adam and Eve ? LOL ! Really ? coo coo for cocoa puffs !!

  • fun bag May 22, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    then again, that unnameable little clique that owns most of the media, music industry, and hollywood seem to relish and bask in their perversion and perverse propaganda. whether or not they are a root cause of problems i don’t know, but many others have thought they were in the past, and they may well be.

  • Wendy May 22, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Lucky for us, you, with your misguided and ignorant opinions didn’t attend our event, which was filled with joy, love,and acceptance, much like Jesus. Sad when the atheist in the room is better at living Christ’s teachings than you are. Feel free to spread your hate, it’s your right, just know it’s our right not to care.

    • fun bag May 22, 2016 at 8:55 pm

      I like how you mention jesus and then go immediately into full attack mode, but at least you admit you don’t care (about anyone but yourself). This is the problem with the LGBTQ-XYZ agenda is the selfishness and the in-your-face arrogance of it all. respect for others seems to be lost for proponents of that agenda.

      • Wendy May 23, 2016 at 9:34 am

        I like how you think that was an attack. It must be really hard for you to feel judged. And you’re right, I should care about your opinions, because it is the poison you and many others like you spread that make it really hard to raise a kind, loving, and accepting child in this community. Your opinion matters because no amount of hoping you will align your actions with your faith will change that people will continue to be hurt by your intolerance. Your opinion matters because I once believed like you and I am grateful to say I changed and decided to love the humanity in people and leave the rest to them to work out. Your opinion matters because I will never stop hoping that the world will become a better place and one day render people like you extinct.

        • ladybugavenger May 23, 2016 at 1:34 pm

          Was that your barf on the carpet?

        • fun bag May 23, 2016 at 3:22 pm

          “I will never stop hoping that the world will become a better place and one day render people like you extinct.”

          people like me? that’s a very racist thing to say. and for the record i’m an agnostic atheist

    • .... May 23, 2016 at 9:08 am

      Well Wendy I’m on your side with this. I don’t care who sleeps who. To each their own and whatever makes them happy. Unlike other people I have better things to do than worry about what other people do in the privacy of their own lives..
      I’m glad you all had a good time. some people I know were there and their my friends and I don’t degrade them because of their lifestyle.

  • Letlogicprevail May 23, 2016 at 10:20 am

    When I was a little girl, fights between my brother and I always ended with, “Mom said.” We were too immature to reason our way through an issue, so we resorted to an adult whose opinion we didn’t always know. When we didn’t know, we made it up to prove something we already believed to be true.

    Invoking God into these discussions is similar. And as adults, we need to recognoze that it limits out ability to think about things rationally.

    The rat experiment is perfectly valid data. Calling the resulting behaviors “degenerate” is an opinion that is not based in rational thought. Let’s try it:

    Is overpopulation a problem? Yes!

    Does evolution teach us that humanity will evolve to save itself? Yes!

    Logical conclusion: the rat experiment actually justifies the gay lifestyle as a more evolved lifestyle that can contribute to saving the rats in their habitat and the humans in ours.

    Thus sayeth one very heterosexual, logical girl who refuses to claim “God said”.

    • fun bag May 23, 2016 at 6:34 pm

      i didn’t invoke any gods. that was LBA, so what are you on about?

  • ladybugavenger May 23, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Do you think it’s fair I get fired from my job for voicing my 1st amendment right to free speech because Im anti gay marriage?

    Look, I don’t care if you get married but I don’t have to agree with it. Face it, you came from a man and a women. I’m all for controlling the population lol. Go ahead get married and don’t bring anymore kids into this world. Just because I don’t agree doesn’t mean I hate you or want to take something from you. But in return, respect my beliefs. I love Jesus! I love God. Don’t hate me for it! ( but wait, it’s in the bible that you will hate me…so be it)
    ladybugavenger signing out

    • fun bag May 23, 2016 at 6:38 pm

      i always call it the BUY BULL. it best describes what you’re buying into, but to each his own.

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