The ribbons came in a variety of sizes, lengths and colors. Some were thin and sparkly; others were thick and multicolored. But hundreds of people picked one of the ribbons up as they walked through the doors of First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City for a Pride Interfaith Service on Wednesday night.

Some wore them around their necks or held them in a bunched-up pile in their hands. And during moments of solidarity, joy and celebration, people waved the ribbons in the air.

Eventually, attendees tied the ribbons together and wove them into a rainbow as what has become an anthem for the gay community, Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," was sung in the background. The ribbon mosaic represented the diversity of the individuals in the room and the connection between all humans, according to event organizers.

It was one of many messages of love, belonging, pride and joy shared during the Pride Interfaith Service. The event included leaders from wide a variety of faiths and beliefs — ranging from Pagan and Jewish to Buddhist, Universalist and Christian.

The service was hosted by the Utah Pride Interfaith Coalition, an organization of local faith traditions formed almost two decades ago in an effort to show that LGBTQ people can also be people of faith.

"While part of this country is trying to suggest that one has to choose to either be a person of faith or be true to their identity as queer, we as a coalition say that is a false choice," said the Rev. Curtis Price of the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City. "Your faith is yours."

"The faith community needs you and we are less without you. I pray for the day this type of service is not needed and inclusion is the norm. But in the meantime, welcome," he continued, adding that the police department provided security for the service after the church received threats.

Sigifredo Pizaña, a gay Christian, said the service is a place where he can be around other believers and feel a sense of belonging.

"Sometimes it's hard to fit in with the Christian community because of being gay, but also sometimes I feel it's hard to fit in with the gay community because of my religious views," he said. "It's a reminder that I do belong here, and at the end of the day, my views and religion are between me and God, regardless of whether people tell me I don't belong."

Ribbons are woven into a matrix during the Utah Pride Interfaith Coalition Interfaith Service at the First Baptist Church in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Elle Mills-Warner said she spent most of her teen years feeling like a monster because of her identity as a pansexual trans woman. It wasn't until she quit trying to "fit this round peg into a square hole" that she said she was able to feel pure joy and peace in her body.

"Growing up I was not given spiritual messages that who I am was OK. I was given messages that I needed to change," she said during the service. "We are all made in God's image, and none of us should be afraid of what God created us to be."

She also condemned people who push for anti-transgender legislation and try to paint trans individuals as groomers, pretenders and corruptors of society.

"None of this is true. For those people who would want to take all of this away from us, I would say shame on you," she said. "This is just who we are. Our existence does not affect you in any way."

Nick Arteaga, ACLU of Utah's transgender rights strategist, said 2023 brought an increase of legislation that would affect transgender people, with 555 bills being introduced and 373 being active. Ten of those bills, four of which passed, were introduced in Utah. One of the most prominent was SB16, which bans transgender surgeries for Utah minors.

"When we see anti-trans bills and laws like these being proposed and passed, it mistakenly infers that being trans is a choice or something that can be changed by external forces or if you're religious, divine intervention," Arteaga said. "I am grateful that I am able to be myself, unapologetically queer and trans, nonbinary — but for a long time I did not know that was possible."

Bishop Karen Oliveto speaks during the Utah Pride Interfaith Coalition Interfaith Service at the First Baptist Church in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Bishop Karen Oliveto, of the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church, said she came out decades ago. She said the LGTBQ community had been pushed to the margins and that theirs was "a love that dare not speak its name."

"The love that dared not speak its name now dances down corridors of city halls and church aisles to get married. Is it any wonder why we celebrate?" she said. "My faith as a Christian tells me that this one life we've been given, this one miraculous, sometimes confounding life we possess is meant to be celebrated."

The service was Bryce Linnarz's second time in a church, but he was excited to celebrate Pride this year after recently coming out as pansexual to his family. His takeaway from the service was that he's not alone.

"There's a lot more people like me than I thought," he said. "I never really felt like I was a part of a community, but I guess I am, so it's kind of cool. I guess that's my big takeaway."