Tucked into dry Utah hills, just south of Arches National Park and to the northeast of Canyonlands National Park, Moab is small Mormon town of just over 5000 souls. As of the 2010 census, 78.8% of them were white. It’s not the kind of place you would expect to see a gay pride parade.
But if you had been on Moab’s main street on October 1, 2011, that’s what you would have seen and probably even joined. Amy Stocks and her partner Ali Lingel organized the parade and Moab Pride, because they don’t want LGBT youths in Moab to grow up feeling isolated. Mayor David Sakrison supported it, saying, “I think it celebrates our diversity.”
Moab Pride has a Web site, but the best place to learn more about them or to connect is on their Facebook page. One of the parade’s onlookers videotaped it so if you watch the video below you’ll get a sense of the setting and the 200 people who turned out to march. The festival attracted 300 more.
A friend sent me the best article I read about the parade and why it was so significant, “Why Pride Matters in Small Town Moab, Utah“. Diane Anderson-Minshall interviewed Sallie Hodges, Moab Pride Festival Creative Director, who said:
I can’t really describe the emotions I felt by being a part of such a life affirming experience. As we marched, people on the sidelines clapped and cheered, there were no jeering or mean spirited expletives. In fact, the community as a whole — from the police department to City Hall — have been nothing but incredibly accommodating and very supportive.
500 people celebrated gay pride in Moab. That’s 10% of the population, in a town dominated by a church that spent a lot of money supporting California’s fight to forbid same-sex marriage. By supporting a parade and festival, Moab residents are calling for openness and acceptance. They give me hope that other rural, conservative communities will be inspired by Moab’s example and intolerance and bullying will end.