17 June 2021

In 1977 the MCC and SLC's Gay Community Made a Splash into Utah Politics

My idea of what the MCC's 1977
dance event may have looked like
in the Utah Capitol Rotunda.
Before the Sacred Light of Christ Church (previous post) was known by that name it was known as the Metropolitan Community Church of Salt Lake (MCC).

In 1977 the MCC made a splash into Utah politics, albeit unintentionally.

In Feb 1977 the Board of the MCC voted to hold a church dance on April 22 in the Utah Capitol Rotunda, similar to decades of past LDS Church dances held there. They followed the proper procedures and applied for a permit, which was granted by Lt Gov David Monson.

However, 2 weeks later and after “certain informants” called him, the Lt Gov rescinded the permission with Monson saying that the MCC was a “gay organization whose purpose for existence is strictly to satisfy the needs of the gay community” and later saying that he may reconsider if the MCC could “demonstrate it is not a homosexual organization.”

The Daily Utah Chronicle responded in an editorial titled “Gays are people” asking if Monson wanted them to perform a heterosexual sex act before being admitted to the dance.

The MCC soon filed suit in 3rd District Court against Monson alleging religious discrimination. On April 19 Judge Dean Condor denied the church’s request for a court order forcing the dance stating that the rental of the Capitol Rotunda was “discretionary” on the part of the State.

The MCC filed a new suit asking that the decision be reversed. Utah Deputy Attorney General, Mike Deamer, then filed a motion to obtain the membership list from the MCC so that police and sheriff departments could compare it to their lists of “known homosexuals.”

On May 17, Judge Condor turned down both of those motions- ruling against the State in that it was “unnecessary” for them to have the MCC’s membership list and ruling against the MCC in that the Lt Gov did have the legal authority to not rent the Capitol Building.

In historian Ben Williams telling of this story, he states that “the courts eventually ruled that the Lieutenant Governor had no right to rescind permission to hold a dance in the state capitol building simply because the church had homosexual members.”  (I am looking for that decision and have asked the University of Utah's Faust Law Library to help me track it down, so hopefully more on that soon.)

The fallout from the fiasco of denying the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) the ability to hold a church dance at the Utah Capitol Rotunda continued throughout 1977.

 Hatch-Monson Dialogue headline from
The Daily Utah Chronicle June 2 1977

Lt Gov David Monson and Senator Orin Hatch were already scheduled to speak at a June 2 1977 “Dialogue” at the University of Utah where many of the U’s students asked questions about gay rights.

Hatch said that homosexuals should not be allowed to teach school and likened them to the American Nazi Party. He also said it was the fault of a “growing number of perverts” for the deterioration of the country.

Also at the Dialogue event, Monson tried to spin his dance decision to be a liability issue and said he tries not to let his personal feelings influence his public actions. However, a few years later in 1981 when Monson was attending an anti-Equal Rights Amendment rally, he boasted about his “important decision” to “refuse homosexuals permission to dance in the Capitol Rotunda.”

Further, in Oct 1977, just a few months after the enormous press coverage of the MCC’s denied dance, the MCC’s request for a loan to purchase the building at 870 W 400 South for their church and a community center was rejected by their bank, the Bank of Utah at 70 E South Temple, despite having credit-worthy cosigners and $19K (~$85K today) on hand for a down payment.

The church at 870 W 400 South was originally the Grace Methodist Church and most recently the Tongan Methodist Church which burned down in 2000 and is now demolished. The MCC rented part of this building for most of the 1970s.

Yup, 1977 was quite the year for the Utah LGBTIQ+ community and much of the activism can be attributed to MCC’s Worship Coordinator and later Reverend, Bob Waldrop.

Sources: 1977 by Ben Williams, published in Salt Lake Metro 2005-05-12; SL Trib 1977-02-19; Ogden Standard Examiner 1977-02-19; Daily Utah Chronicle 1977-02-25; SL Trib 1977-03-26; SL Trib 1977-04-23; Utah Daily Herald 1977-05-18; Daily Utah Chronicle 1977-06-02; Rocky Mountain Open Door 1977-10-01; SL Trib 1981-07-19

The church at 870 W 400 South that the MCC used during the 1970s.
Also known as the Grace Methodist and the Tongan Methodist church.
Image from UDSH.

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