On a sunny Saturday morning in April, more than two dozen men, women, and children march up Central Avenue, on the final stretch of the Pride parade. The pro-gay march has taken place in Phoenix every year since 1981, but it's the first time this particular group has joined the thousands of people celebrating. A Lady Gaga hit blasts from the speakers of a nearby multicolored VW bus, but this is not really a Lady Gaga kind of group. These people stand out mostly because of their outfits: The men wear slacks, shirts, and ties, and the women wear dresses.
In fact, they look as if they are on their way to church, and that would not be a bad guess. The crowd along the parade route gasps then hollers, reading the group's banner: "Mormons Building Bridges." Other signs declare that "God loves all His children" and "Mormons heart LGBT."
The members, friends and family of ALL Arizona -- a local support group for gay members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- reach the end of the parade route at Steele Indian School Park. It's there that they encounter another religious group.
Holding banners that condemn homosexuality and surrounded by a fence that separates them from festival-goers, the protesters hurl insults. ALL Arizona members Jon Abhau and his mother, Meg, are the first to notice the picketers. They approach them, and Jon, a tall, blond 14-year-old in a rainbow-colored bow tie, tries to hand one of the protesters a sign that reads "'Love one another' -- Jesus." The protester won't even look at the boy. The sign lands on the ground next to the protester's shoes.
As his mother looks on proudly, Jon Abhau simply smiles and walks away.More »