Salt Lake City has been known as the home of the world headquarters of the Mormon church since 1847, but now it is known for something else entirely different. Salt Lake City is the gayest city in the U.S, according to Advocate.com.
That title was given according to a list of the “Gayest Cities in America, 2012,” which was released Monday on Advocate.com, an lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) news website. Instead of letting census numbers dictate which cities ended up on the list, the website sought to find the “per capita queerness” of each city by using “decidedly subjective criteria” to create a formula that determined the results.
This formula consisted of adding up points – which were assigned to cities based on things like the number of LGBT elected city officials, number of WNBA teams and the number of nude yoga classes – and then dividing that number by each city's population.
Salt Lake City, which has a population of 186,440, was ranked number one because it has an International Mr. Leather competition semifinalist, an LGBT bookstore, a nude yoga class and it has had three concerts by the Cliks, Gossip or the Veronicas since 2009.
The “far-less-oppressive-than-it-used-to-be Salt Lake City has earned its queer cred,” the website states, boasting about the city's attractions like the Sundance Film Festival, a lesbian-owned wine bar and an eco-friendly nightclub in the area.
Rounding out the top five on the list behind Salt Lake City are Orlando, Fla., Cambridge, Mass., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Seattle, Wash.
Despite the website's findings, Mike Imperiale, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City, says all major cities in the U.S. have strong gay communities.
"I think every major city in the United States has a significant gay population...and I don't think you can measure whether one is more gay than another either in population or expression or whatever,” he said.
Imperiale previously served as the pastor of churches in New York and Philadelphia, and although there may be a strong LGBT presence in Salt Lake City, he says that religion is still the major cultural difference between Salt Lake and other American cities.
"The major thing is that one's faith or religion or church affiliation is the number one thing that people want to know about in Salt Lake City. So when you meet somebody, and you start a conversation, very high on the list or early on in the conversation is, 'Do you belong to the church,' meaning the LDS church, or 'Do you have a church affiliation?'"
According to findings from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which studied numbers relating to same-sex couples from the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 1,145 same-sex couples in Salt Lake City. There are 15.36 same-sex couples per 1,000 households in the city, giving it a ranking of 74th in the nation among cities that have at least 50 same-sex couples living within them.
In June 2011, comedian and actress Roseanne Barr served as the Grand Marshal of the Utah Pride Parade, which became one of the largest gay pride parades in Utah's history, according to Deseret News. In a post on her Twitter account today, Barr described the city's number one ranking as a “dream come true in slc.”
According to Imperiale, ministering to homosexuals should be just like ministering to anyone else.
"My general approach would be: treat them like a human being. Show interest and interaction with their life. Describing oneself as gay or lesbian is not totally defining of their whole life. Every person has challenges in life, work, ambition, goals, things that make them tick, things they like to do, etc. And so in doing ministry with any person...you just want to treat people as human beings who have a life and have all the joys and concerns, successes and failures, that anybody has,” he said.
Imperiale says that Christians often have a hard time ministering to those who are “different” from themselves – which might include gays, people of different races and even the homeless – and they need to do more to minister directly to individuals.
"Generally speaking, I think Christians fail at ministering to the person. We try to do a lot through the church and through agencies or whatever to extend physical help to those who are in need, and that's a good thing. But I'll tell you, if people are uncomfortable with or refuse to interact with the person, I think we're falling short of God's call for us."