Text messages reveal Utah lawmakers pressured UTA to pull Pride-wrapped bus out of parade

Jun 6, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: 11:40 pm

The LGBTQ Pride flag is seen past Scott and Lynne Barrett during the 2023 Utah Pride Parade in down...

The LGBTQ Pride flag is seen past Scott and Lynne Barrett during the 2023 Utah Pride Parade in downtown Salt Lake City on June 4, 2023. Newly revealed text messages show that a group of Utah lawmakers pressured UTA to reevaluate and apologize for the bus. (Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

(Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Transit Authority was planning to have a Pride-wrapped bus take part in the 2023 Pride Parade. However, UTA ended up pulling it. Newly revealed text messages obtained by KSL NewsRadio show that a group of Utah lawmakers pressured UTA to reevaluate and apologize for the bus.

The text messages reveal the House Majority leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, was dealing with members of his own caucus upset about the bus. He sent a text to UTA board member Beth Holbrook saying it was causing him a lot of drama in his caucus.

Holbrook responded saying she would check with legal about whether they had to be careful of First Amendment issues. That’s when Schultz texts got a little more stern.

Schultz texted Holbrook that this was not a First Amendment issue. He told her UTA is a state run agency, and the bus is paid for using tax dollars. He goes on to say he has a group of House members who want a public apology.

“I just want this problem solved asap so we don’t have to go down this road,” Schultz’s message reads.

Schulz’s texts also relayed a message from House Speaker Brad Wilson to Holbrook.

“We live in Utah, we shouldn’t have to deal with this stuff,” the message reads.

Schultz confirmed to KSL NewsRadio that what he meant by “this stuff” was state entities “jumping into things that are so controversial.”

“Absolutely not was I referring to (LGBTQ people) as stuff,” Schultz said.

Schultz did defend the texts saying he stands by what he said and texted.

“If they want to be supportive of Pride then they should focus on increasing their service getting people to and from the events.”

Additionally, other House members sent texts to various UTA board members. These included Reps Candice Pierucci, R-Harriman, Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, and Colin Jack, R- St. George.

KSL NewsRadio reached out to all four lawmakers. Only Rep. Pierucci responded via text.

“As a member of the Interim Transportation Committee, I am constantly advocating for increased frequency and access for the southwest corner of the valley. Riverton and Herriman have zero bus stops. I reached out to UTA questioning whether this was the best use of taxpayer dollars and the best way to maximize the state’s transportation budget. The UTA is a public entity and should focus on its mission of getting people from point A to point B,” she said.

UTA ended up showcasing their electric busses instead in the parade. They also say the wrap and design of the bus were privately donated.

In a statement on Tuesday, UTA said it was never its intention to disappoint any member of the communities it serves. The statement said UTA was trying to acknowledge the diverse voices and concerns within their community.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Text messages reveal Utah lawmakers pressured UTA to pull Pride-wrapped bus out of parade