Utah Cop Claims He Never Refused Gay Pride Assignment, Says Dept. ‘Defamed’ Him

Salt lake city

A Salt Lake City police officer who made headlines last week when his department announced he had been put on leave for refusing to work an assignment at the city's gay pride parade is claiming he did not refuse his assignment and that the department 'defamed' him and violated his constitutional rights.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

"He feels that the same protections that afford individuals to participate in a parade like we had yesterday, are the very constitutional protections that were not afforded to him," Bret Rawson, the officer’s attorney, said Monday. […]

Rawson said the officer did not refuse his assignment — to join other motorcycle officers in choreographed maneuvers at the beginning of the parade — but instead asked his commanders for a "less conspicuous" role at the parade, such as traffic enforcement or security.

"The officer simply felt that the level of participation required in the event could be perceived as endorsing or advocating in favor of the LGBTQ community, a position which made him uncomfortable, given his personal and religious beliefs," Rawson wrote.

"He never refused to do his job," Rawson added in an interview Monday. "He specified that if he was required to do [the motorcycle assignment], he would do that. So he was very surprised that he was put on administrative leave."

Rawson said that the “media circus” surrounding the officer's leave amounts to “constructive termination,” adding: “No reasonable, rational person could stay at work under these circumstances.”

Citing pending litigation, a Salt Lake City spokesman said they were unable to comment on the validity of the officer’s claims.

And in related news, Maggie Gallagher has also weighed in on the controversy, but not in the way you might expect.

Maggie gallagherShe writes:

"Religious liberty should not extend to a cop refusing to protect Gay Pride parade-goers — that is just wrong.

UPDATE: Charles Cooke and I agree. Cops need to protect everybody, including Gay Pride parade-goers."

In a second post, she adds:

He says he was willing to serve at the Gay Pride parade but didn’t want to ride in front of the parade as he feared it might be interpreted as being a participant.

They could have cut the guy a break, instead of throwing the book, but the main point still stands: There’s no right not to serve at parades or political gatherings you disagree with.

Hell has just frozen over folks…


  1. Homo Genius says

    If what the cop says is true… I actually have to side with him. There is a difference between “protecting and serving” and participating. The motorcycle duty sounds like it was part of the parade or would give that appearance.

  2. anon says

    If you are a member of the motorcycle corp that participates in events like this parade as part of the police department’s community outreach program, then participation in these events is just as much a part of your job as anything else. If you don’t want to participate in these types of events, then don’t join the motorcycle corp.

    Additionally, riding a government owned motorcycle, wearing a police uniform and participating in a GROUP event cannot legitimately be described as expressing your own personal opinion. It is a community outreach event expressing the position of the police department that they support all members of the city.

    Would you also expect the city to allow racist officers to opt out of participation in a community parade on MLK Day?

  3. Randy says

    The officer must do the assignment. This officer claims he agreed to the assignment, but asked for alternatives. Those alternatives were denied him. I’m fine with all of that.

    The question is: if the officer was going to do the original assignment, why was he placed on leave?

    Someone is either lying, or screwed up.

  4. Jack M says

    In other words, he refused an assignment. And you know, if Maggie is on our side, Girl, that man HAS to be wrong!

  5. JamesTheKid says

    It seems to me that requiring “community outreach” does impede on his rights.

    And though any officer should be willing to work security for any event,they should never be required to participate (be it for veterans, MLK, mom and apple pie, whatever).

    Not only is that a basic civil rights issue, it would be dishonest for a police officer to participate in a parade they don’t agree with.

    There’s a pretty clear difference from working a parade and marching in it, honestly. I’ll get up in arms when a police officer fails to fulfill his duty towards a gay citizen, but his duties don’t include riding IN the pride parade. Honestly I’d rather the SLPD stick to keeping people safe during this anyways, in my opinion we could save money if community outreach consisted entirely of doing their jobs and not abusing their power. But if they must outreach, the outreachers should do so on their own volition. In fact, I don’t like the idea of paying cops to march in parades.

    his politics are his own business as long as they don’t interfere with his job. And marching in a parade of any kind should not be part of his job.

  6. Bill says

    If the officer merely requested a different assignment but did not refuse to perform the assignment he got, the police department overreacted. It’s possible that someone misunderstood the officer’s request, but what actually happened has to be independently verified as the officer could be spinning the story to make him look better after the fact.

    At this point, we really don’t know what actually happened – we have two contradictory accounts. Maybe the smart thing to do is to put the discussion on the back burner until the facts are in.

  7. bob says

    I would like to hear from Maggie why a police officer’s religious liberty is not as important as a cake maker’s liberty. Either she believes that a person has a right to their beliefs or doesn’t. If she believes that an officer must put aside his beliefs in defense of the common good then it is just as important for a cake maker to put aside his beliefs to follow the law.

  8. anon says

    “it would be dishonest for a police officer to participate in a parade they don’t agree with.”

    It is NOT dishonest to participate in a parade when your participation is an expression of the POLICE DEPARTMENT’S position and not an expression of your personal views.

  9. Johnny says

    Maggie Gallagher weighed in.

    I’d like to see what’s left of the scale they used.

  10. Philie says

    Once you put on the uniform, you leave your beliefs and all their interpretations at home, so you can serve the public and your office in a nation whose Constitution declares Separation of Church and State.

    The office participates in parades where group minorities have been attacked and unfairly discriminated against, it is their showing support that cautions against any further unlawful attacks.

    It is called prevention; and all officers participate in prevention and community support.

    Picking and choosing what suits YOUR personal beliefs puts you at odd with performing your duties; A job btw, paid for by those same tax-payers walking the parade.

  11. NoOneEverSuspectsTheButterfly says

    Accusing his department of lying and defaming him probably won’t bode well for him in the future if he continues working there.

    Even if he wasn’t lying, pussyfooting around and quibbling, ‘Oh I don’t agree with their lives so I’ll do this but not that, and that but not this’ is NOT the way any organization should run, let alone a POLICE DEPARTMENT!!!

  12. NoOneEverSuspectsTheButterfly says

    Accusing his department of lying and defaming him probably won’t bode well for him in the future if he continues working there.

    Even if he wasn’t lying, pussyfooting around and quibbling, ‘Oh I don’t agree with their lives so I’ll do this but not that, and that but not this’ is NOT the way any organization should run, let alone a POLICE DEPARTMENT!!!

  13. Bernie says

    omg! I am not an attorney, but from what I just read and my understanding is that this officer did try to INVOKE his religious freedom so that he would NOT have to participate in a certain part of the GLBT parade..I am interpreting that to mean and I think his superiors might have thought the same; if this officer is having a problem protecting the gay community, he is NOT doing his job and I can see this officer is going to become the next faux hero of the right, the next Colorado baker who was asked to compromise his religious belief… the question begs: would he protect a gay person from harm????

  14. Bill says

    @Bernie (and others): suppose instead an officer assigned to march in the parade asked to swap assignments with another officer because that other officer was gay and was hoping he would be assigned to march in the parade so he could take his partner along with him. It would be nice to accommodate such a request, but overtime rules (and hence cost to the taxpayer) might get in the way.

    If there was a simple request for an assignment change expressed as a preference, he shouldn’t have been punished. Given constitutional protections, you can’t make the rules dependent on what an officer believes as long as he doesn’t let those beliefs interfere with his job. If you want to allow officers to request assignment changes in order to show support for gay officers, you have to allow the requests in general (with an understanding that they might be denied for a variety of reasons).

  15. anon says

    @BILL…. This officer was not assigned to “March in the parade”. He was assigned to participate in a choreographed, synchronized motorcycle routine that he has been training with other motorcycle officers to perform. It’s not a task that can just be handed over to another officer who hasn’t trained for the routine.