Mar 27, 2023 - Politics

Tampa Pride leaders worry about parade's future amid anti-LGBTQ bills

Someone marching in the Pride parade with a sign reading "oppose desantis' censorship state" with a picture of the governor and the Equality Florida logo

Photo: Courtesy of Dave Decker/Creative Loafing

Ybor City was filled with sunshine and rainbows on Saturday as thousands of people gathered for the Tampa Pride Diversity Festival and Parade, despite looming legislative efforts targeting Florida's LGBTQ community.

Driving the news: Tampa Pride president Carrie West tells Axios organizers fear this year's event may be the last legal Pride parade for a while.

  • "What's going on in the Florida legislature is disturbing," West said.

Why it matters: A slew of anti-LGBTQ bills are moving through the state Legislature, including bans on preferred pronouns in schools and gender-affirming care as well as restrictions on drag performances that could make public events like Pride illegal.

  • Plus, DeSantis' administration is looking to expand the Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by critics, which wouldn't require legislative approval.

Between the lines: Tampa Pride leaders have always considered the celebration family friendly, despite claims from GOP legislators that children need to be shielded from drag performances and talk of gender and sexuality.

  • "For nine years, we have worked with community leaders and volunteers to provide a safe place for all individuals to express their true selves," executive board member Alex Barbosa told Axios.
  • "This year, we are honored to have younger generations of LBGTQIA+ activists speaking their truths about struggles within the current political climate."
  • Throughout Saturday's celebration, several people wore shirts and held signs reading "Say gay," "Trans existence is resistance" and "I'm safer with drag queens than I am with DeSatan."

Flashback: Local Pride events have been forced to shut down before.

  • In 2005, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms led the commission in banning all county-run Pride events. It took eight years for that ban to be repealed.
  • Tampa Pride, which hosted its first parade in 2015 with now-Mayor Jane Castor as grand marshall, is used to bouncing back. The nonprofit made history in 2021 by hosting the first Pride parade in the country since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Yes, but: The organization has faced internal shakeups in the last year, with increased pressure to diversify its leadership.

  • The interfaith Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa pulled its support from this year's celebration and called for West to step down after recent misgendering of its senior pastor.

What we're watching: A bill moving through the state Senate — aimed at drag performances — that would punish business owners with up to a year in prison for knowingly admitting children into "adult live performances," which includes a show that "depicts or simulates nudity and sexual conduct."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Hillsborough County's Pride ban in 2005 affected only county-run events.


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