Another Florida Pride Event Canceled As Other Organizers Dig Their Heels In
Organizers in St. Cloud, Florida, announced this week they would be canceling an LGBTQ+ Pride festival next month, joining at least two other events as casualties of Florida’s extreme new anti-LGBTQ+ laws while other event organizers double down.
The St. Cloud organizers wrote on social media that their decision to cancel the event in June — which is Pride Month — was “difficult” and “not made lightly.”
Florida’s hard-right Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an array of legislation dubbed “discriminatory” by the Human Rights Campaign on Wednesday. Among the measures is a ban on gender-affirming care for minors of any kind, a ban on using a bathroom aligning with one’s gender identity, an expansion of the education law nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay,” and restrictions on performances by drag queens who are a quintessential part of Pride.
The legislation prompted Equality Florida, an LGBTQ+ civil rights group, to issue a travel advisory for the entire state.
“These laws have created a climate of fear and hostility for LGBTQIA+ people in Florida. We believe that holding an LGBTQIA+ event in this environment would put our community at risk,” the St. Cloud organizers said.
They added: “We hope that you understand our decision.”
The event, held south of Orlando, was set to include food, drink and entertainers, including drag queens. An event in Tampa called Pride on the River, set for September, was similarly canceled this week, with an organizer pointing to the public riverfront venue and spotlight on drag performers.
“In the end, we didn’t want to take any chances,” Carrie West, president of Tampa Pride, told the Tampa Bay Times.
Port St. Lucie, Florida, announced in April that its Pride parade would not go forward as planned in anticipation of the anti-drag law. The city, located north of Miami, also restricted what was formerly an all-ages Pride festival to people aged 21 and up, upsetting some parents.
DeSantis claims the anti-drag bill “protects children from sexually explicit content.” It uses vague phrasing such as “adult live performances” and “sexual excitement” to target drag shows, which are now banned in public areas and relegated in private areas to adult-only settings.
Drag, however, is like any other form of artistic expression — such as acting — that can be changed to fit the time and place appropriately.
Other organizers have come out to reassure their communities their events would go on as planned.
“Lake County Pride will never back down,” organizers of the Orlando-area county wrote on Facebook.
“No unconstitutional law will keep us from celebrating our PRIDE event, Lake County Pride Celebration 2023!”
St. Petersburg Pride is also a go.
The event bills itself as Florida’s largest LGBTQ+ Pride festival, expected to include a month of parties, concerts and family-friendly events culminating in a parade and street fair.
Organizer Dr. Byron Green told HuffPost that St. Pete Pride is in “constant communication” with city officials with the assistance of lawyers.
“We know it’d be a difficult call,” Green said when asked about canceling Pride in light of the Florida political climate.
“The first Pride was a riot that was started by drag queens and trans women of color,” Green said, referencing the Stonewall riot, “So for us, it would be disingenuous to not lean into that and support our drag artists and trans community in any way possible.”
“We absolutely will be leaning into supporting these artists,” Green added, “in ways that will allow us to stay within the bounds of local ordinances.”