SALT LAKE CITY – A Salt Lake City police officer has been placed on paid leave and subjected to an investigation after he allegedly refused to work at an ‘gay pride’ event, which has been characterized as containing sexually explicit behavior in broad daylight.
According to local reports, an unnamed officer with the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) objected to a Sunday assignment at the Utah Pride Festival and parade on the basis of his personal beliefs.
The Associated Press outlines that “[t]he parade featured the longtime signatures of gay pride parades: drag queens, scantily clad men in speedos and women in bikinis, but it also featured dozens of corporations and mainstream organizations marching in the parade and hundreds of families with small children watching.” In years past, some men have stood atop floats or marched in the streets wearing only their underwear.
Because of the officer’s objection to working traffic or security at the parade, the police department put him on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
Lara Jones, a spokesperson for SLCPD, said the officer should have left his personal beliefs “at home.”
“The vast majority of officers understand: When they put their badge on and come to work, they leave their personal beliefs at home, and we provide service to the community,” Jones stated, according to Fox 13.
“Officers are routinely assigned posts,” she added. “To have an officer object for, perhaps anything other than fitness for duty, physical fitness, etc., would be problematic to a smooth-functioning police department.”
Jones said the police department would not tolerate the officer’s personal beliefs.
“We don’t tolerate bias and bigotry in the department, and assignments are assignments,” she told local affiliate KSL.com. “To allow personal opinion to enter into whether an officer will take a post is not something that can be tolerated in a police department.”
The annual Utah Pride Festival is a three-day event organized by the Utah Pride Center, with this year’s festival taking place Friday through Sunday. According to the festival’s website, the event “grows bolder and brighter with every year.” A number of Mormons also attended this year’s event, many of which marched in the pride parade.
After the officer was placed on leave, Deann Armes—a spokesperson for the Utah Pride Center—issued a statement, in which she claimed, “Clearly, bigotry is alive and well.”
However, others disagreed, arguing that the police officer should not be forced to work at the homosexual parade.
“What about showing tolerance for the officer’s beliefs?” one commenter queried. “I’m sick and tired of people being called bigots for standing up for their beliefs!”
“Requiring him to support a parade celebrating something he feels is wrong is, well, wrong,” another proposed. “It’s no different than suing a photographer who won’t take pictures for a gay wedding, or suing a cake maker who doesn’t want to make a gay wedding cake. The law is there to protect from forceful harm, not to force our wills on each other.”
As previously reported, in a similar situation, an appeals court recently ruled that the rights of a Christian police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were not violated when he was ordered to attend an event in a Muslim mosque. The court decision prompted a similar outcry from individuals concerned about the officer’s religious freedoms.