UVU Student Helps Utahns Show Support During Pride with Project Rainbow

In 2018, Utah Valley University student Lucas Horns saw three rainbow flags in a neighborhood, which sparked an idea that started a movement.


In 2018, Utah Valley University student Lucas Horns saw three rainbow flags in a neighborhood, which sparked an idea that started a movement. It began with 500 rainbow flags planted on lawns along the Wasatch Front. This year, that number has grown to more than 5,600 rainbow flags proudly waving in yards statewide.

"We get emails all the time from people who get letters on their doorsteps — usually from youth — saying, ‘I'm gay, and my parents don't know. Thank you for putting up this flag; you don't know how much it means to me.’" Lucas Horns said.

Project Rainbow, which Lucas Horns created, is a Pride fundraiser conceived out of concern for the number of LGBTQIA+ youth who die by suicide. Lucas Horns knew the statistics — Utah ranks in the top 10 for suicide, and LGBTQIA+ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. He hoped placing rainbow flags in neighborhoods during Pride Week would help at-risk youth feel supported.

"I grew up in suburban Utah, and I felt like I was the only queer person in Utah,” Lucas Horns said. "I didn't really feel like being gay and [being in] Utah went together, so I [created Project Rainbow] to show that queer people and allies to queer people live everywhere, and if you want to come out of the closet, you don't have to move somewhere else just to come out. There is support all around you no matter where you live."

Those who want a rainbow flag delivered and installed for Pride Week can sign up online and provide a $15 donation. All proceeds benefit organizations that work to promote queer inclusion. Lucas Horns said they provided $75,000 in grant money last year to diverse beneficiaries, ranging from an LGBTQIA+ comic book artist launching an inclusive line of comic books to the Red Rock Music Festival, which showcases queer artists.

Lucas Horns' father, Dr. Daniel Horns, is dean of UVU's College of Science. He was supportive from the beginning, assisting with flag-building and logistics.

"It's important to show support for a community that, in a lot of their life, doesn't feel supported,” Dean Daniel Horns said. “They feel like they have to hide who they are, and if they don't hide who they are, they fear being treated at best with disdain and at worst with violence. Just showing that support means a lot."

Lucas Horns says UVU, which was supportive while he was a student, continues to support Project Rainbow. As he is now working in municipal planning and studying for an advanced degree, Lucas Horns relies heavily on the many people statewide who assist and share his vision, including those from UVU. For example, it takes 200 volunteers to deploy and remove the flags, and many UVU faculty and students are actively engaged in rainbow flag placement.

“The support and care from the greater community are absolutely essential for LGBTQIA+ students at UVU,” said Emily Branvold, director of LGBT Student Services. “There are times when even the smallest advocacy can be lifesaving. To have Project Rainbow bring such visible support throughout the state of Utah signifies that LGBTQIA+ [individuals] belong here, just like everybody else.”

Lucas Horns said he hopes that when people see the rainbow flags in their communities, they understand that they are symbols of inclusion. “It’s a symbol about bringing in more people to the circle and not excluding anyone,” he said.