Due to the current political climate in Florida, Tampa Pride is canceling its annual Pride on the River event.
“In the end, we didn’t want to take any chances,” said Carrie West, president of Tampa Pride.
The decision came Wednesday after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1438, which holds businesses accountable ”if the establishment admits a child to an adult live performance.”
Last year’s Pride on the River on Sept. 24 included events such as a diversity boat parade, fireworks extravaganza, drag brunches and live performances.
“It was a great opportunity for people of all ages,” West said, noting that the event’s Riverside Festival included family-friendly activities like balloon animals and face painting.
Tampa Pride’s parade in March held all drag performances in a fenced-off courtyard at the Cuban Club limited to those over age 18. For Pride on the River, organizers looked at creating a similar adult-only area at Armature Works, but were not able to find a location that could be fenced off.
“We just said, you know what, we are afraid if we did go through with this (DeSantis) would come in with his Gestapo... not Tampa Police, because we’re working with them, but maybe another group, and they’d all just pull the plug on it,” West said.
DeSantis signed five bills Wednesday, including HB 1069, which “provides requirements relating to titles & pronouns” and SB 254, which prohibits “sex-reassignment prescriptions and procedures for patients younger than 18 years of age.” Groups including Equality Florida denounced his actions.
“DeSantis has just signed into law the largest slate of anti-LGBTQ bills in one legislative session in the state’s history,” said Joe Saunders, the organization’s senior political director.
Wednesday was also International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. West believes the governor’s timing was intentional.
“DeSantis did this because next month is Pride Month,” West said. “He wanted to make sure he got it in before that.”
Hillsborough will still raise the Pride Flag in front of county buildings on June 1, West said. Organizers plan to bring back the Pride on the River event next year.
“It’s not fair for the kids. It’s not fair for the adults or for anybody,” West said. “It’s bullying and trying to make sure that you’re president...We’re very concerned about what’s happening in the state.”
Around 3 p.m., St. Pete Pride posted an update on Instagram to let followers know its 10 scheduled Pride Month events would continue in June, including the annual parade on June 24.
“Drag community welcome with open arms,” the post read. “You can’t stop Pride.”