St. Pete police, Pride leaders: Pride to continue as normal, with drag

Police and Pride leaders met to discuss how proposed legislation would affect Pride events if signed into law.
Lady Guy smiles as she rolls down 30th Street North in the back of a convertible while waving to onlookers during the 10th Annual St. Pete Pride Street Festival & Promenade in the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg in 2012.
Lady Guy smiles as she rolls down 30th Street North in the back of a convertible while waving to onlookers during the 10th Annual St. Pete Pride Street Festival & Promenade in the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg in 2012. [ LEAH MILLIS | Times (2012) ]
Published May 5|Updated May 8

If you wouldn’t get told to cover up at the beach, you won’t be told to cover up at St. Pete Pride.

That’s the guidance St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway offered St. Pete Pride organizers during a meeting Friday morning, according to the group’s president, Tiffany Freisberg.

Police met with Pride organizers Friday to discuss how a proposed law that would ban governments from issuing permits for “adult live performance” would affect their upcoming June celebration. Freisberg said this year’s Pride events will continue on as normal and will include drag performances.

“We are definitely celebrating the events,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s Pride as usual.”

A bill passed by the Florida House and Senate would prohibit any government from issuing a permit or otherwise authorizing a person “to conduct a performance in violation” of a statute created by the bill that targets “exposing children to an adult live performance.”

It now heads to the governor, whose administration filed a complaint against a Miami hotel for hosting a drag event minors were allowed to attend. If signed, the law will go into effect immediately.

Organizers wondered what that meant for Pride celebrations around the state. Drag performances are central to Pride events. Performers took to the streets of New York City after police raided the LGBTQ+ friendly Stonewall Inn in 1969. The so-called Stonewall Inn riots are credited with ushering in the gay rights movement.

St. Petersburg is home to Florida’s largest Pride celebration. St. Pete Pride returns next month for its 21st year and is expected to draw 200,000 spectators and 5,000 participants. The city supports St. Pete Pride and raises a Pride flag at City Hall every June.

Freisberg said St. Pete Pride called the meeting with police and took on legal counsel to advise the group. She said the goal was to understand exactly how the police are reading and interpreting the bill so Pride could relay that information to entertainers and volunteers.

“It’s just making sure we’re completely aligned on it,” she said. “And we are.”

On Friday, Holloway, an assistant chief, two majors, a sergeant and an officer overseeing permitted events attended the 30-minute meeting, along with police legal counsel and spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez. St. Petersburg’s LGBTQ+ Liaison Jim Nixon was present, as well as Freisberg and St. Pete Pride Executive Director Nicole Berman, along with the group’s attorney.

Freisberg said police are not interpreting the bill “as being specific to drag.” She said Holloway said if performers or attendees were more indecent than one would be at the beach, that’s when police would take notice.

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Therefore, St. Pete Pride won’t have to change any of its scheduled events or performances. Freisberg said other Pride celebrations have limited some events to adults 21 and older.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being a family-friendly Pride,” she said. “Not a whole lot is changing this year because we’ve never had an issue with it.”

Freisberg said Pride usually calls for meetings with police ahead of the celebration. Security for the Pride parade and events also was discussed.

“We’re incredibly grateful, continuously amazed … with their support,” she said of the Police Department. “It’s not all Prides in all cities that are that lucky.”

Fernandez, the police spokesperson, would not give specific details about Friday’s meeting and said Holloway would be made available for an interview if the bill becomes law.

“We prefer not to comment on the bill until we can see the version that (is) signed into law,” Fernandez wrote.