Police officer, suspended over gay pride parade, defends religious liberty

Religious Liberty
by Sarah Padbury
Posted 3/04/15, 04:48 pm

A former Salt Lake City police officer who was put on leave and later resigned after he objected to riding in the motorcycle brigade at the front of a gay-pride parade spoke out for his religious rights last week

“I felt that by being an actual participant in the parade, I would be perceived to be supporting certain messages that were contrary to who I am,” Eric Moutsos told the Deseret News. “I will protect their parade. But I just don't want to be in the parade.”

In June 2014, the Salt Lake City Motorcycle Squad was assigned to participate in the Utah Pride Parade, performing choreographed maneuvers as they led the parade route. Eric Moutsos, a member of the exclusive unit, was scheduled to ride but requested to swap assignments because he felt uncomfortable in the role at the front of the parade.

Moutsos, a 33-year-old Mormon, sent an internal email asking to be reassigned to traffic duty, but his request was denied. Moutsos said he then conceded that he would ride in the parade, but two days later was put on leave. The story became public after police issued a news release stating an unnamed officer had been put on leave for refusing the gay-pride parade assignment. Gay rights supporters immediately labeled the officer a bigot, and the story became worldwide news. Moutsos quit a short time later, believing he could no longer work in Salt Lake City.

At first, Moutsos wanted to remain anonymous. But he recently changed his mind due to the Utah legislature’s debate over a bill to balance anti-discrimination rights with religious freedoms.

“These issues need to be addressed. There are so many good people, no matter what it is you believe,” Moutsos told Deseret News. “I think what’s happened here is that we’re just getting more divisive on this issue. [Some might say] just because you may disagree with somebody means that you hate them. And that’s just not true. Because I love people. I’ll take a bullet for you. I’ll protect you. But I will not advocate certain things in people’s lives.”

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said he stood behind his decision to put Moutsos on leave and faulted Moutsos for resigning before internal affairs investigators had the chance to resolve the issue.

“It has nothing to do with religious freedom, that has to do with the hatred of those individuals and what the parade stands for, which is about unity and coming together,” Burbanks said. “How can I then send that officer out to a family fight that involves a gay couple or a lesbian walking down the street?”

But Moutsos said he was offended by the notion that he would treat gays and lesbians differently as an officer. He said he has several gay and lesbian friends and worked security at gay and lesbian events in the past. The Los Angeles Times noted that Moutsos made local headlines in 2009 for his positive handling of an incident involving two gay men who were detained for kissing at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.

“We can 100 percent disagree and still 100 percent love,” Moutsos said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Sarah Padbury

Sarah is a writer, editor, and adoption advocate. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Sarah and her husband live with their six teenagers in Castle Rock, Colo.

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  • RMF
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 05:23 pm

    He said he didn't want to do it, but then said if he had to, he would, then was put on leave. What?He's better off not working on this force. 

  • Laura W
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 05:23 pm

    Wow, so all he did was ask to be reassigned? Looks like he was even willing to go ahead and do the motorcycle thing in the parade if that was refused--it was just asking that was the problem.

  • Rob Fitzgerald
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 05:23 pm

    RE: The story became public after police issued a news release stating an unnamed officer had been put on leave for refusing the gay-pride parade assignment. Gay rights supporters immediately labeled the officer a bigot, and the story became worldwide news.  It is safe to assume that the Gay Rights Supporters knew nothing about the (as of that time) unnamed officer.  Thus, it would appear that the Gay Rights Supporters have engaged in prejudice and bigotry themselves.  [Definition of Prejudice: an opinion formed beforehand, esp. an unfavorable one based on inadequate facts.  Definition of Bigotry: stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.  Definitions are per Dictionary.com (Harper Collins).]  

  • sanman101
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 05:23 pm

    A parade is a symbol of a celebration.  It's completely understandable that an officer may not want to participate in the "celebration" but could still do his job of protecting all citizens...gay or straight.  

  • Rich277
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 05:23 pm

    When the "tolerant" left disagrees with someone, they hate him and seek to destroy him.  So they assume that anyone else who has a disagreement with another person or persons wishes to destroy them as well:     "It has nothing to do with religious freedom, that has to do with the hatred of those individuals and what the parade stands for, which is about unity and coming together," Burbanks said. "How can I then send that officer out to a family fight that involves a gay couple or a lesbian walking down the street?"In other words, they judge the alleged offender by the lowest common denominator possible...Themselves.

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