Some Florida Pride organizers remain defiant this year as others cancel events

In Florida this summer, Pride is fighting back.

Across the state, organizers of the Pride festival are confronting the reality of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ crusade against drag performers and LGBTQ+ identity as he runs for president on a promise to remake America in the image of Florida.

Their efforts are being met with both defiance and resignation.

“We are telling people not to run, not to hide,” Carlos Guillermo Smith of Equality Florida told Reuters. “That’s what the fans want.”

DeSantis hasn’t made it easy.

Last week he added to his anti-LGBTQ+ legacy by signing the so-called “hate list,” a collection of four bills that include bans on gender-affirming care for minors, bans on pronouns, bans on trans bathrooms and new sanctions for places. hosting children in “live performances for adults”.

The latter would make Pride venues, organizers, performers, and even sponsors criminally liable if minors were present during a drag performance.

While the text of the bill does not mention the name of drag, a handout from the governor’s Wednesday signing ceremony indicated that drag performances are considered “live performances for adults” with no “literary, artistic, political or serious scientist.”

With the legislative buildup on Wednesday, Tampa Pride organizers had seen enough.

Speaking of DeSantis, Tampa Pride President Carrie West explained: “We just said, you know what, we’re afraid if we go through with this, he’s going to come with his Gestapo. Not the Tampa police, because we’re working with them, but maybe another group, and they’d all just pull the plug.”

Tampa Pride was scheduled for September.

A Reuters request for comment from the governor elicited a terse response, saying he would not respond to any “unsubstantiated allegations” linking the new laws to hostility and violence toward the LGBTQ+ community. The governor “will continue to do the right thing and protect the innocence of children,” the email said.

There wasn’t much to add. DeSantis’ strategy to cool down summer Pride seems to be working.

In the small town of St. Cloud, outside Orlando, organizers canceled a June 10 Pride event featuring a food market and a drag show, saying the current weather made it “unsafe” to continue.

In St. Lucie, its all-ages Pride event is now an adults-only gathering, and the parade has been cancelled. Drag performances at a Naples Pride festival moved indoors.

However, there are other cities throughout the Sunshine State that oppose the governor.

Tiffany Freisberg, president of St. Pete Pride, home of Florida’s largest Pride parade, said canceling was never an option.

“The new laws have a very real ripple effect of fear in our communities,” he said. “But that’s why events like ours are more important than ever.”

In Orlando, Joseph Clark, director of Gay Days, says his group’s summer tours of Disney World and Pride events, including drag shows and pool parties, won’t change, and he encourages LGBTQ+ people everywhere. the country and the world come to Florida challenging DeSantis.

“When people come to Pride events, that unity and coming together creates a layer of safety for our community and shows that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” Clark said.