Provo’s popular Freedom Festival held on the Fourth of July each year just became a little more inclusive, at least on paper. A new non-discrimination clause was just approved by festival organizers following controversy last year.
Last year, just a day before the Fourth of July parade, the LGBT group Encircle, was told they could not participate. This was after they were given the green light, made plans for the march and even bought matching t-shirts.
"I think there’s pretty widespread feeling that that was an unfortunate incident on a lot of levels," Provo's deputy mayor Isaac Paxman said.
Paxman said that because Provo uses public funds for the parade, they’ve added a non-discrimination clause to their agreement with the Freedom Festival. Meaning groups can not be excluded based on ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
“Provo doesn’t want to become the decider of parade entries," Paxman said. "But have we tried to encourage them to be inclusive? Absolutely."
That agreement was signed by the festival's executive director, Paul Warner, who did not return calls for comment.
Despite the agreement, the LGBT group that at the center of all of this, Encircle, has yet to be admitted to this years parade.
Stephanie Larsen is the head of Encircle and she said she feels the festival’s values of faith, family and freedom align well with her group.
"We would never want to take anything away from the freedom festival," Larsen said. "We just want to make it more accessible to all members of the community.”
Larsen would like to know sooner than later whether Encircle will be admitted, because she’d like to order t-shirts.