Reynolds’ words, delivered as he and his bandmates picked up the Top Rock Artist award, made the speech one of the night’s most buzzed-about moments. Recalling the moment in an interview with HuffPost, the singer-songwriter said it was simply “an awesome opportunity to stand up.”
“We have a long ways to go, still, as far as creating a safe space for our LGBTQ youth,” he said. “Terrible, awful things are happening every day, still. ... The whole world needs to [hear] it.”
For the third consecutive year, Reynolds has teamed up with Tegan Quin of the pop-rock duo Tegan and Sara to organize the LoveLoud Festival, a daylong Utah music festival benefiting LGBTQ advocacy organizations and groups. Headlining the June 29 show at the USANA Amphitheatre in metro Salt Lake City will be Kesha, who joins a lineup that also includes Reynolds, Tegan and Sara, Daya, K.Flay, PVRIS and Laura Jane Grace.
The inaugural festival was featured in the 2018 HBO documentary “Believer,” which explored Reynolds’ efforts to reconcile his LGBTQ advocacy work with his Mormon faith. The singer-songwriter has said he is committed to mounting the annual show in Utah, which reportedly has the fifth-highest suicide rate in the country. (Suicide is also the leading cause of death among those aged 11-17 in the state.)
Last year’s event, headlined by Imagine Dragons and Zedd, raised over $1 million for those groups ― a figure Reynolds and Quin hope to match or surpass this year. Once again, the full concert will be livestreamed.
Given that Reynolds identifies as straight and has described himself as “a unique Mormon,” his efforts have sparked a fair amount of debate among fans as well as LGBTQ rights advocates around the world. Noting that homophobia has “affected not just my closest friends growing up, but also my family,” he shrugs off those who suggest he’s pandering.
“My uncle moved to South America after graduating from Brigham Young University because he felt like he had no safety here,” said Reynolds. BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is ranked by The Princeton Review as the second-most LGBTQ-unfriendly college in the U.S. “It broke my heart, but also impassioned me to want change. This last year was the first time that my uncle got back together with the rest of my family.”
For Quin, who is a lesbian, the LoveLoud Festival is a chance to celebrate LGBTQ people “in light of all the conflict and the rollbacks of rights” that the community has experienced lately.
She’s also hopeful the event inspires attendees to support the Equality Act, a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill seen by many as the LGBTQ rights movement’s top legislative priority.
“I don’t know if we’re ever going to truly be equal,” she said. “We can legislate protections, but that doesn’t necessarily trickle down to everyday life. But for me, fighting for equality gives my life such purpose. There are so many people within our community who don’t have the ability, the safety or the community around them to fight.”
Reynolds added: “I really can’t put into words how meaningful the two years of LoveLoud have been to me. They certainly have been the most important shows I’ve been a part of, and really, maybe the most important days I’ve been a part of. I don’t say that lightly.”
The 2019 LoveLoud Festival Powered by AT&T takes place Saturday in metro Salt Lake City.