SALT LAKE CITY—Stripping for a cause—any cause—thousands of people in their underwear ran up State Street and crowded the steps of the state Capitol building Saturday to protest Utah’s “uptight” laws and conservative culture.
“We’ve heard it. Utah is boring, Utahns are uptight,” said Undie Run organizer Nate Porter to an antsy, half-naked crowd at the Gallivan Center minutes before the 2-mile run. “For tonight, we change that. Let’s tell Utah to lighten up.”
Explaining that he had a few broad goals in mind as the event formed, Porter said the Undie Run seemed like the perfect way to have fun while challenging Utah’s conservative stereotype and encouraging young people in Utah to become more politically involved.
And with over 3,000 people in attendance, sporting body paint advocating for causes from the serious to the silly, the evening seemed pretty successful, at least to insiders. Many confused bystanders called out, “What is this for?”
Bare backs, fronts, arms and legs displayed slogans like “Equality for All,” “Separation of Church and State,” “Too Young for Medicare, Too Old for Women to Care,” “Save the Huka Bar,” “Straight but Supportive,” “Lesbians and Virgins, Thanks for Nothing,” “I Like Things,” “Gay Rights are Human Rights,” “Kiss this [Senator] Butters,” “Change Starts With Your Underwear” or “Tear Down the Zion Curtain.”
Porter said the point was to be broad. “I wanted people to think about the issues that matter to them and then freely express their views.”
BYU student Ty Browning says it worked. “Utah is too uptight,” he said. “Dry campuses are what I’m here about. This event is giving people the freedom to express what they want in a very unique way.”
Upon the conclusion of the run, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson addressed the crowd, hoping to give context to protesters demands that Utah “lighten up.”
“These folks in the Utah Legislature get rid of private club membership rules and then make us look like fools by asking for the ‘Zion curtain’ [screening drinkers from non-drinking patrons] to be put in all new restaurants,” said Anderson, co-founder of the special interest group High Road for Human Rights. “We should get our undies in a bunch about that.”
“The majority of the Legislature, in their hostility towards gays and lesbians, passed a statute that prohibits adoption of children by unmarried couples,” Anderson said. “That is something for us to get our panties in a bunch about.”
As the sun set and the half-naked crowd grew buzzed, Anderson made the night’s final pitch: It’s time to get out the vote.
“What will change—what we can do—is point the figure at ourselves. We have to register to vote, become active…” Anderson said directing participants to the on-site voter registration booth. “That’s how we change this world.”
AGGIE ALUM MINDY HAWS, left, traveled from Moab. Courtesy of Mindy Haws.
MORE PHOTOS by UNdercover Reporters Heidi Hansen and Cathy Morgan
GROUP PHOTO—Hundreds of Undie Runners gather on the steps of the Utah Capitol. Heidi Hansen photo
The few, the proud . . . the under-dressed. Cathy Morgan photo
Napoleon Dynamite lives? Heidi Hansen photo
Let it all, er, hang out. Heidi Hansen photo