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More than a thousand LGBTQ+ students, friends, and allies in Utah held what they’re calling Brigham Young University’s first unofficial Pride march. The crowd gathered Monday, June 28 in Kiwanis Park in Provo where they mingled and listened to speakers before marching along city sidewalks with a police escort to Joaquin Park a short distance from the BYU campus. Students and activists organized the march themselves
“We are here and we are proud to be here to show support for people that are in a hard place and in a weird situation with their sexuality,” a marcher named Kendra told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Kendra said when students learned BYU had no official profile for Pride on social media, they created BYU Pride (@byupride) with a stated mission “to empower students to celebrate progress made by the LGBTQ+ community at BYU and to advocate for change through collaborative activism.”
Word quickly spread and Monday’s event was well-attended by a mix of students, faculty, and the local community. Bisexual BYU alumnus Adriene McKell joined the march with her husband, Jake.
“We’re excited to represent both BYU and the LGBTQ community,” Adriene told the Daily Universe.
Many of those in the crowd had children who were LGBTQ+. Becky Edwards held a sign and wore a shirt that both read “Free Mom Hugs” to show support for her gay son and the community. She attended her first Pride march a few weeks ago, where she also passed out free hugs to any and all in need of some motherly love and comfort.
“I knew that this is part of what I was sent here to do, was to love people who don’t feel the same amount of love that I naturally get because I’m straight,” Edwards told the Daily Universe.
In March, gay BYI student and 2021 Advocate MagazineChampion of Pride Bradley Talbot organized a group of LGBTQ+ students to light up the school’s famed ‘Y’ which overlooks the campus. News and images of the rainbow-hued landmark on a hill went viral, as did the organizer’s message of exclusion on campus.
“We’re here, and we’re part of this institution,” Talbot said at the time. “We should have a place at the Y.”
BYU immediately issued a statement saying lighting of the Y was not authorized and that “any form of public expression on university property requires prior approval.”
BYU is named after Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the mid to late-19th century, and the man who led a group of Mormon pioneers to Utah. Upon cresting a ridge and seeing the Salt Lake Valley for the first time on July 24, 1827, Young famously declared “this is the right place” to settle his followers. That event is celebrated annually in the state on July 24 with the holiday Pioneer Day.