Jun 4, 2024 - News

Pride Month in Florida begins with defiance, momentum

A group of people holding signs and flags, with a sign that says "Hold them accountable stop DeSantis' censorship" front and center. In the background are bright green from palm trees.

Miami Beach Pride Parade in April. Photo: Zak Bennett/AFP via Getty Images

Jacksonville residents started the month by illuminating the city's Main Street bridge with a rainbow in protest of the Ron DeSantis administration's recent ban on Pride lighting for state bridges.

Why it matters: Even as Gov. DeSantis continues to restrict LGBTQ+ expression, Florida advocates say this year's Pride celebrations will smack of defiance as momentum shifts in their favor.

State of play: The Florida Legislature showed less of an appetite for culture war bills than in recent years.

  • All but one of 22 measures with negative implications for gay and transgender Floridians failed, Equality Florida senior policy adviser Carlos Guillermo Smith tells Axios. He attributes those wins to "intense collective opposition."
  • Judges in recent months have dealt setbacks to a crackdown on drag shows, restrictions on teachers' pronoun use, and bans on gender-affirming care.

What they're saying: "Despite real attacks on our humanity, LGBTQ+ people and our allies chose to respond by showing up for each other and demanding a world that's better," Human Rights Campaign national press secretary Brandon Wolf tells Axios.

  • "Heading into this Pride month, I feel that same sense of defiance and resistance," said Wolf, who previously worked for Equality Florida.

Yes, but: The DeSantis administration has used state agencies to enact new restrictions, such as banning trans people from changing their driver's licenses to match their gender identity.

Stunning stat: A Human Rights Campaign Foundation survey conducted last fall found that 80% of transgender or nonbinary Floridians don't want to stay.

Those stories "just commit us to this work even more," Guillermo Smith said.

  • "LGBTQ+ Floridians are proud, we are resilient, and we're determined to carry on in spite of the governor's obsession with attacking our community for political gain."

The other side: DeSantis' office has dismissed warnings about Florida's LGBTQ+ hostility as stunts, often citing record tourism to the state.

What's next: St. Pete Pride, Florida's biggest Pride celebration, is underway, and its parade is expected to draw hundreds of thousands on June 22.

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