ST. PETERSBURG, Fla (WFLA) — Pride Month is celebrated every year in June to recognize the impact that members of the LGBTQ community have had on history worldwide.
In the Tampa Bay area, there are pride festivals, concerts, parades and more scheduled. The biggest pride celebration in the southeast is hosted in St. Petersburg. St. Pete Pride is hosting its 20th celebration this June.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Jim Nixon, City of St. Petersburg LGBTQ liaison.
Nixon says the city prides itself on its inclusivity, welcoming those of all backgrounds and sexual orientations. On June 22, they will light up the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in rainbow colors.
“Those are the types of things that tell Tallahassee and sometimes out of Washington that we are an inclusive city and we welcome everyone,” Nixon said.
In Florida, LGBTQ community members say their rights have been challenged by an education bill signed into law by Gov. Ron Desantis this year. Critics have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”
“Taking away the little rights, little rights turn into big rights – they start picking and all of a sudden it starts tearing apart the fabric of who our families are, who we personally are,” Tampa Pride President Carrie West said.
LGBTQ members say the legislation only makes their community and events stronger.
“We’ve gotten a lot of people call [and say] ‘where can we go, where can we go and meet up so we can go and just talk,'” West said.
“As it was in 1959 with the Stonewall Riots, we still see a continuing effort to either diminish our community or restrict it, and so we must stand up and we must be visible,” Nixon said.
LGBTQ members say the celebrations are not just about waving rainbow flags and dressing in different colors. They say “pride” comes from celebrating rights they were once denied.
“Two of three generations prior to mine who set the stage for my safety and others. There was a time I wasn’t allowed to think of having children, ever being married, or ever being able to look forward,” Chris Covelli from Project Pride said.