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This small town's battle over gay Pride flags is helping fuel a national debate

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the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce
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the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Allison Phillips Belnap
Kelleen Potter
Wally Scott
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Jamie Belnap
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Julie Compton


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Heber City
Wasatch County
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SectionsTVFeaturedMore from NBC Follow NBC News For the past two years, residents in the small Rocky Mountain town of Heber City, Utah, have seen their main street bedecked with rainbow banners in celebration of Pride Month in June.However, after the City Council voted for a controversial ordinance regulating banners, LGBTQ advocates said they fear the colorful displays will be a thing of the past.“It feels like a slap in the face,” said Allison Phillips Belnap, 47, a local real estate attorney who raised $3,553 through a GoFundMe campaign to purchase and install the banners on city lampposts.The new ordinance, passed in August, requires banner applications be reviewed by the city manager, with appeals submitted to the council for review. Due to the ongoing debate within the community over whether Pride banners are “political” speech, and since the new ordinance bans political banners, it’s unclear whether city officials will approve them next June.Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter, the mother of two LGBTQ teens, opposed the ordinance.“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,” she said.Prior to the ordinance, residents could apply to display banners on city lampposts for a fee of a few hundred dollars, so long as banners were noncommercial, according to Potter. Still, the inquiries sparked debate among city officials over whether an ordinance was needed to regulate them.“No one ever gave me a specific example besides those that we could dismiss easily as hate speech,” said Potter, who had approved the Pride banners the past two years.Home to about 16,000 people, Heber City is a microcosm of how small towns across America are adjusting to evolving attitudes around gender and sexuality.Last year, Mayor Wally Scott of Reading, Pennsylvania, canceled a Pride flag ceremony, calling the flag a political symbol. And one of the top three issues they've identified are mental health issues, and so as we all bang our heads against the wall about how to help these kids, this was something that really was helping, because it created a more inclusive and accepting feeling,” she said of the Pride banners.According to the National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020, LGBTQ teens with high levels of social support were “significantly” less likely to attempt suicide than those without.Three hundred miles southwest of Heber City, a similar controversy flared in the small desert town of St. George, Utah, where rainbow banners fluttered on lampposts along the town’s main thoroughfare last September.Pride of Southern Utah, a local LGBTQ advocacy group, raised $6,100 to install the banners in St. George, as well as the towns of Cedar City and Hurricane.

As said here by Julie Compton