By Kent Larsen
LDS Church Quiet on Pocatello Gay Pride Event
POCATELLO, IDAHO -- As Pocatello, Idaho hosted a three-day Gay Pride event,
local LDS leaders were quiet and Michael Purdy, spokesman for The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declined to comment specifically on the
event, held this past weekend. The relatively quiet reaction of much of the
city even led the event's leaders to call the predominantly-Mormon city
"tolerant." But a vocal minority, led by a local church, Calvary Chapel,
criticized the city's support as validating the gay lifestyle
The event did generate controversy because of the city's support, which
included closing several streets to accommodate the gathering. The
controversy even led the event's organizers to hire security, fearing
violence. But in spite of the controversy, local LDS leaders stayed out of
the event, refusing comment. Salt Lake City-based Church spokesman Michael
Purdy limited his input to providing previously-released statements by
Church president Gordon B. Hinckley on homosexuality.
Given the Mormon dominance in Pocatello (about 50% of the city are listed on
Church membership rolls), it is not surprising that many former Mormons,
both heterosexual and homosexual, participated in the event. An article in
Pocatello's Idaho State Journal indicates that event organizers Amy Larsen,
a heterosexual woman, and Scott Weisenberger, who came out about a year ago,
were both raised Mormon. In that article, both say that they feel strongly
that gays should not be treated any differently than others. "Most people
know someone who is gay," says Larsen, who is president of the southeast
Idaho chapter of Pride, Inc., known as Pridaho. "Gays live in our
communities. They have regular jobs, they have families, and they pay taxes."
But the city's willingness to close streets for the event led many residents
to criticize the city as supporting the gay lifestyle. Calvary Chapel's
pastor, for example, appeared on local TV stations criticizing the event.
And another Idaho State Journal article showed that most area Churches don't
like the gay lifestyle. But most churches agreed with Grace Lutheran Church
pastor Bernard Huesmann, who said "The council acted intelligently, I think.
Otherwise they would have been facing many lawsuits. But spiritually we
don't approve of what [Pridaho] are doing."
But Larsen counters that the gay community has the same right to celebrate
as Mormons have to celebrate Pioneer Day with parades that close streets and
that other area churches have to sponsor 'Marches for Jesus.'
Gay Pride leader: Pocatello tolerant
Boise ID Statesman (AP) 19Aug01 D4
The Associated Press
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