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Pride event organizers watch state legislatures, cancel some events

The decades-old art form of drag has played a key role in how Pride event organizers move forward with event plans this year for LGBTQ celebrations.
Pride event organizers watch state legislatures, cancel some events
Posted at 3:42 PM, May 18, 2023

As 2023 Pride celebration dates approach, the country and Pride event organizers are watching as various pieces of proposed legislation aimed at the LGBTQ community make their way through state legislatures. 

By April there were more than 20 bills in state legislatures across the country that threatened to limit drag performances. The decades-old art form is a vital part of Pride events that celebrate the community and its allies. 

On Thursday, organizers announced that Tampa's Pride on the River had been canceled. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed multiple pieces of legislation that caused concern for the event's organizer, who feared they could have their license taken away. The event includes drag brunches and attracts thousands of attendees. Organizers worried that the event's space, which doesn't have fencing, wouldn't be enough to stop the public from seeing the drag performers. 

In Kansas, the 2023 Salt City Pride Fest was canceled by its venue, citing "sexualized content or confusing gender content in an environment for children," the Hutchinson News reported this month

The non-profit group Salt City Pride said a representative for the group informed the venue multiple times there would be drag shows and a pride pageant. An agreement said that any promotional material couldn't contain pornographic or indecent photographs. Everything was agreed on, and the group even said it would be sure no profanity was played on any music at the event. 

The event was eventually canceled and Daniel Friesen, Reno County commissioner, along with the venue's owner, apologized for how the cancellation happened. 

"I think there's a lot of different pieces of information about what's happening at these events and some of them have appeared to be inappropriate for children," Friesen said. 

He said, "I think the only point I don't think was relayed was was the drag show involving children. I think there was maybe a misunderstanding."

A Pride parade scheduled to take plane in Port St. Lucie, Florida was canceled, and access to the rest of the event was restricted to people 21 years. The event was said to be the first in Florida to have been affected by the passage of the "Protection of Children" bill that prohibited establishments from allowing "a child" to view "adult live performance" shows. 

Washington, D.C.'s Capitol Pride event was still scheduled to take place over the weekend of June 9th. 

Teen YouTube star JoJo Siwa has been asked to host a virtual event on June 15 that will stream live on iHeartRadio called "Can't Cancel Pride."

The online event will have performances from Hayley Kiyoko, Kesha, Billy Porter, Ciara and Brandi Carlile.

Pride festival organizers are finding themselves having to keep a close eye on various pieces of legislation in the hopes that they won't stifle plans to celebrate the LGBTQ community in states around the U.S.

Vanessa Rodley, who helps organize the Memphis Mid-South Pride Fest, told LGBTQ Nation, "At the end of the day, we can’t put on an event that then segregates a huge portion of our community, right? We just can’t do that. So you have to find ways around it."

"As soon as this [legislation] started making its way, I immediately started coming out with plans to be able to counteract that," Rodley said. 

A bill in Tennessee looking to ban some drag performances was put on hold. 

Ron deHarte, who is the co-president for the U.S. Association of Prides, said organizers are going to have to put in some extra work to stay on top of these various bills, the politics surrounding them and their progress. Some events have already planned to not include drag performances so that they don't have trouble with obtaining permits. Other events will keep drag performances indoors. 

SEE MORE: Pride event organizers monitor drag laws ahead of celebrations

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