Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Politics to meet pride at gay festival

The St. Pete Pride street festival drew an estimated 70,000 people last year. An extra 10,000 are expected Saturday. It’s the city’s biggest event.

TED McLAREN | Times (2007)

The St. Pete Pride street festival drew an estimated 70,000 people last year. An extra 10,000 are expected Saturday. It’s the city’s biggest event.


In its first foray into politics, St. Pete Pride is using its annual parade as a platform to challenge an upcoming state constitutional amendment to limit marriage to straight couples.

The parade's grand marshal this year is a woman who was denied access to her dying partner because the couple's relationship was not recognized by Miami hospital officials. Pride officials will also wear T-shirts that read "Say No to Amendment 2."

The festival's opposition to the amendment is significant, albeit not unexpected, not only because it represents the largest statewide protest of Amendment 2 thus far, but because it marks the first time parade organizers will make an overt political statement during an event that celebrates gay pride and unity.

It's a risky move that could further agitate opponents, but organizers of the pride parade Saturday, the city's largest annual event, say the opportunity is too important to pass up.

"It's a natural progression," said David Schauer, co-chairman of St. Pete Pride. "It is time we actually got a little more proactive and reactive."

An estimated 70,000 people attended the parade and street party last year, and an extra 10,000 are expected Saturday.

Amendment 2, the so-called marriage protection amendment, would define marriage in Florida as exclusively between a man and a woman. Florida already has a law against gay marriage, but petition organizers say it should be put into the state Constitution to protect against lawsuits or future whims of the Legislature.

The amendment "is the most important issue we are facing right now," Schauer said. "It basically says that under no circumstances will your relationship be considered equal to that of a hetero couple. It makes us subhuman."

John Stemberger, state chairman of Yes2Marriage, the group that got the measure on the ballot, said the amendment is about protecting children.

"It's not good public policy to intentionally create motherless and fatherless homes," he said. "When you create a same-sex marriage, you are simultaneously creating a same-sex family."

Stephen Gaskill, a spokesman for Florida Red and Blue, an organization created to oppose the proposal, said pride events are a natural forum for political debate.

"We can't take for granted that the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) community is aware of Amendment 2 and aware of the consequences of Amendment 2," said Gaskill, who has attended gay pride events across the state in recent weeks to campaign against the measure.

Longtime parade supporters hope the event's newfound political tone will be a good thing.

"It just brings out more of a crowd and reminds people why it is important to have pride celebrations and show people the true diversity of the community," said Brian Longstreth, a St. Pete Pride founder and former organizer.

Janice Langbehn of Lacey, Wash., said she was surprised when pride officials asked her to serve as grand marshal. Langbehn became a gay advocate only after her partner, Lisa Pond, died while the family was vacationing in Miami last year.

Before the trip, Langbehn said she never thought her relationship of 18 years would be challenged.

But at the hospital, Langbehn, 39, and her children were initially told they could not see Pond until they provided evidence that they were family members. By the time they got a chance to say goodbye, Pond had died.

Langbehn thinks the hospital would never have treated a straight couple the same way and is pursuing legal action.

"As soon as medically possible, we should have been allowed to be with her," Langbehn said. "Even if I could have just said 'I love you,' held her hand."

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or


To learn more

June is pride month. For more information about St. Pete Pride events or news, check out

Politics to meet pride at gay festival 06/21/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 11:36am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Want elite college football athletes? Recruit Tampa Bay


    Now that college football watch list season is over (I think), here's one takeaway you probably already knew: Tampa Bay produces a lot of great athletes.

    Robinson High produuct Byron Pringle has gone from this performance in a high school all-star game to all-Big 12 at Kansas State.
  2. What you need to know for Wednesday, July 26


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    A heart-shaped box containing Katie Golden's ashes sits next to her picture at her family's South Tampa home. Katie died from a drug overdose in April 2017. She was only 17-years-old. Read about her parents' journey at [ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times]
  3. Cuban diplomat reflects on U.S. relationship: 'Cuba was treated horribly'


    Few topics are more controversial in Florida than Cuba, a nation that has held fast to Communism despite lying 90 miles from the shores of a capitalist superpower. It's a place where startling poverty results from either a longtime U.S. trade embargo or a half-century of Communism, depending on one's point of view. …

    Carlos Alzugaray spent a half century as a scholar and diplomat for the Cuban government, including a stint as ambassador to the European Union.
  4. Clearwater residents avoid tax rate increase for ninth year in row

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Residents will avoid a rate hike on their property taxes for the ninth year in a row as taxable values continue to recover from recession levels, padding city coffers.

    Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said the city must be prepared for unexpected expenses. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  5. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.