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Tallahassee Celebrates Pridefest While Some States Cut LGBT Rights

Ted Eytan via Flickr

This weekend Tallahassee kicks of a week celebrating the lesbian gay bisexual and transgender community.  Advocates and city officials believe this year’s Pridefest offers a counterpoint to anti-LGBT efforts in southern state legislatures.

This Saturday marks the start of Tallahassee Pridefest.   Festival director Josh Willoughby says the week-long celebration kicks off at Mint Lounge that night.

“We have our Miss Tallahassee Pridefest Pageant where we crown our upcoming Miss Tallahassee Pridefest,” he says, “it is a drag pageant and it will be at Mint Lounge downtown starting at seven on Saturday.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says the LGBT community is part of the city’s identity and it’s important to recognize it.

“I think it’s really important that a growing and diverse community as ours recognizes the contributions of all members of our community,” Gillum says.  “The LGBTQ community are huge contributors to Tallahassee.”

But in recent months, state legislatures in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Georgia have passed anti-LGBT provisions.  Gillum says that posture has consequences.

“When communities don’t feel welcomed, you get state boycotts and corporate boycotts against your state like in North Carolina,” Gillum says, “or the threat of it as existed in the state of Georgia, and I’m thankful that the governor—Governor Deal had the wisdom to veto that legislation.”

And not so long ago, the Florida Legislature passed its own law offensives to many members of the LGBT community.  Florida’s measure doesn’t go as far as Georgia’s.  It codifies legal protections for clergy who refuse to officiate same-sex marriages.  Critics say the first amendment is protection enough, but the bill passed easily.  Meanwhile Sen. Joseph Abruzzo’s (D-Wellington) measure adding protections for gender identity and sexual orientation stalled in a Senate committee.

“Where we are right now we are still deadlocked,” he told the Judiciary committee in February.  “It is five-five. I have not gotten commitments from any member of this committee that they will move off their current position, so we are still deadlocked.”

“Well I mean I think for whatever reason the Legislature never ceases to underwhelm us,” Gillum says of lawmakers’ choice to approve the so-called pastor protection act and reject Abruzzo’s bill.

Willoughby says in the wake of so many state governments moving against the LGBT community it’s even more important to celebrate pride.

“It’s more important than ever to be present and show that we are a large diverse community both here and across the nation,” he says.

Organizers are hosting parties throughout the week—including a family skate party on Tuesday.  They’ll cap off the week on April 16 with a party in Kleman Plaza called Pride in the Plaza.