WILTON MANORS, Fla. — This year’s Pride celebration in Wilton Manors will take place against the backdrop of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed earlier this year.
The Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival will take place in Wilton Manors on June 18.
“This Pride Month is different than previous Pride months because we see the attack on the LGBTQ community and because we see that the attack has taken place on the LGBTQ community,” state Sen. Shevrin Jones told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview.
Jones represents District 35, which includes portions of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, in the Florida Senate. Jones in 2020 became the first openly gay man elected to the chamber.
The South Florida Democrat on March 7 became emotional when he discussed his own coming out in a speech against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill on the Florida Senate floor before his colleagues approved it. DeSantis signed it into law — which has been challenged in federal court — less than a month later.
Wilton Manors’ Pride events will also take place less than a month after DeSantis’ administration asked the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, a board that regulates doctors in the state, to essentially ban transgender-specific health care for children and teenagers.
“The flags are being raised higher now more than ever because it’s not just the physical flag, it’s the flag of our voices, it’s the flag of our advocacy that’s being raised in this moment,” said Jones, referring to Pride Month. “There is a group of people who are trying to silence the LGBTQ community.”
Brandon Wolf, press secretary for Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, in a statement to the Blade noted “the chilling impacts of the bigoted ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law are already being felt across the state, even before it has gone into effect.”
“Books with LGBTQ characters are being ripped from shelves. Graduation speeches are being censored. Rainbow ‘safe space’ stickers are being peeled from classroom windows. And there is an uneasy climate that is causing educators to leave the work they love in order to avoid discrimination.” said Wolf, who survived the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando that left his two close friends, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and his fiancé, Juan Guerrero, and 47 other people dead.
“All of that makes Pride as critical as ever this year,” he added. “Pride has always been a protest. It has always been a resistance to injustice and a demand for equality. This Pride, people across the country are called upon to let Pride inspire them to get civically engaged, to recommit to the fight to protect LGBTQ young people, and hold accountable those who are working to undermine progress and erode our civil liberties.”
SunServe is a Wilton Manors-based foundation that provides housing, mental health and other services to more than 5,000 LGBTQ people through its offices in the city and in neighboring Fort Lauderdale. SunServe is among the groups that plan to participate in the Stonewall Pride Parade and Festival.
“SunServe enters this Pride Month with a lot of enthusiasm and celebrating our foundation’s 20th anniversary,” noted Tony Lima, the foundation’s CEO.
Lima, like Wolf and Jones, acknowledged the “Don’t Say Gay” law will impact Pride in Wilton Manors.
“It will be a Pride with more focus on our young people,” Lima told the Blade. “Young people are our future and we must protect them and give them the opportunity to live full and happy lives.”
Florida lawmakers earlier this year approved their state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)
Arianna’s Center is another Wilton Manors-based organization that serves trans women throughout South Florida.
The organization this past weekend participated in a Pride parade in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. Arianna’s Center staffers also plan to attend Pride Month events with the Mexican Consulate in Miami and with the Miami Police Department.
“June is not Pride (Month) for many of our clients, so we celebrate this month with a lot of responsibility, with the hope of having equality and that the transgender community is heard,” said Arianna Lint, the group’s CEO. “We have many wishes for improvement, equality and equity for the trans community. We cannot celebrate while there are trans people incarcerated for no reason and with no social services that help them.”
Lint also acknowledged the “Don’t Say Gay” law has adversely impacted Florida’s LGBTQ community.
“Everyone is affected and everyone must work together and not just in groups or an elite club,” she said. “This affects everyone and we must unite to be able to better work together to eradicate this and other types of bills that affect us.”
Michael K. Lavers contributed to this article.
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