For the past two years, rainbow banners had flown from lampposts on Main Street in the city of Heber, Utah, in celebration of Pride month. But when some residents complained that Pride and LGBTQ+ rights were political and did not represent the values or beliefs of the community, Yahoo News reports the city passed a new ordinance in August raising the costs and generally making it more difficult to continue the practice.
“It has pretty much eliminated the option of private citizens funding banners and requesting them to be hung on Main Street, unless they are able to get sponsorship from the city, the county or the chamber, and that sponsorship means some financial sponsorship,” Kelleen Potter, the mayor of Heber City and mother of two LGBTQ+ teens, explained.
The new ordinance requires any event or message promoted on the banners must be nonpolitical and not for profit. Additionally, banner applicants must first obtain sponsorship from the city of Heber, Wasatch County, or the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce before their application will be considered by the city. In the past, residents could apply to hang banners from the city’s lampposts for a few hundred dollars as long as they were noncommercial in nature.
The change was brought about after rainbow Pride banners appeared in June of last year. Some residents of the heavily Mormon city of roughly 16 thousand residents east of Salt Lake City questioned the appropriateness of the display on city’s Facebook page and at city council meetings.
“As a Christian, our family believes that marriage is between a man and a woman,” one woman is quoted as saying, while others claimed the flag and, by extension, LGBTQ+ rights, were political. Potter claimed she began receiving inquiries wondering if the previous banner policy allowed banners with other allegedly similarly political messages protesting abortion or pornography or featuring symbols associated with the Ku Klux Klan or Nazis.
Despite the complaints of some residents, others took a more positive view and noted the rainbow banners speak to children who are in the closet and looking for affirmation.
“How upset a lot of residents are has been really discouraging,” Jamie Belnap, a Heber resident and the mother of a queer teenaged son, told the Salt Lake Tribune in August. “Think of all the kids who don’t feel comfortable coming out and the message that sends.”