Discover more from The Signorile Report
Canceling Pride is the worst response
In Florida, Tampa Pride canceled its pride event, caving to Ron DeSantis' odious laws. But in Wilton Manors, a City Commissioner is instead going to Pride in drag.
The Signorile Report is reader-supported. If you’ve valued reading The Signorile Report, consider becoming a paid subscriber and supporting independent, ad-free opinion journalism. Thanks!
Pride events in some Florida towns and cities have been canceled in response to Governor Ron DeSantis signing the odious anti-drag bill into law, banning drag performances—deemed “adult entertainment”—in front of minors. This follows over a year of LGBTQ events being canceled all across the country in the face of threats from right-wing extremists and GOP politicians.
Tampa Pride canceled Pride on the River, saying its choice was "spelled out by the governor." In St. Cloud, outside of Orlando, organizers said it was "unsafe" to hold Pride, noting on the group's Facebook page, "We believe that holding an LGBTQIA+ event in this environment would put our community at risk."
I get it. The threatened ramifications are real. Local elected politicians who give the go-ahead to Pride could be fired under Florida law by DeSantis and replaced with far-right hacks. There’s the possibility that anyone in drag could be arrested. Venues could be shut down, and liquor licenses could be taken. Groups might lose their non-profit status.
In some cases, such as in Port St. Lucie, city leaders told Pride organizers in no uncertain terms they would have to scale back Treasure Coast Pridefest, limiting who could attend and not allowing anyone under 21, so the Pride organizers believed they had no choice but to comply and reign in the celebration.
But the stakes are too high to simply cave in on free speech and what is clearly unconstitutional. This is bowing to the forces of hate, which is the opposite of what Pride celebrates: the riots at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, in which people resisted police and government crackdowns, and the Pride marches ever since, whose message has been, "Never again!"
No, I'm not saying people should riot, engage in any violence, or put themselves in danger. But the cave-ins are too easy, not even pushing the boundaries and daring DeSantis—a third-rate bully, and ultimately a coward—to actually do something.
That’s why other Pride events in Florida are rightly refusing to bow. Lake County Pride wrote on Facebook last week: "Lake County Pride will never back down, and we stood firm and united in fighting against the ‘Drag Ban.’ No unconstitutional law will keep us from celebrating our Pride event, Lake County Pride Celebration 2023!"
St.Petersburg Pride also put a clear message out:
St Pete Pride, with the support of the City of St. Petersburg and our community partners, will be happening as planned. 10 events across the month of June, including our annual parade scheduled for June 24. Drag community welcome with open arms.
You can’t stop Pride.
And in Wilton Manors, the very gay city that is part of the Fort Lauderdale metro area, one city commissioner is attending Pride in drag at the annual Stonewall Pride. Per Florida Politics:
Commissioner Chris Caputo will be at the June 17 parade as "Lady Vote," according to a post on his Facebook page. Caputo says he’s ready to test — and perhaps push to strike down — the new law that bans having children at live shows that "in whole or in part" depict or simulate "nudity, sexual conduct," or the exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.
Caputo posted a photo of himself as "Lady Vote," noting, "𝗜 𝗺𝗮𝘆 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗮 💃 𝗯𝗲𝗮𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗱𝗿𝗮𝗴 𝗾𝘂𝗲𝗲𝗻, 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝗜 𝗮𝗺 𝗰𝗲𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗮𝗻 𝗼𝘂𝘁𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗸𝗲𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗱𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗲. 𝗟𝗲𝘁 𝗺𝗲 𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗯𝗲 𝗱𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗰𝘁: 𝗱𝗿𝗮𝗴 𝗾𝘂𝗲𝗲𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 🏳️🌈𝗦𝘁𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘄𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗦𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗲𝘁 𝗙𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗮𝗹, 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝗮𝗹𝗹."
"Personally, I don’t believe drag performances at our Stonewall cultural event are illegal," Caputo wrote on his Facebook page. "I believe they are of artistic and political value, and I am comfortable showing up in drag. If the Governor disagrees with that, he is welcome to recall my seat, and we can fight it out in the courts."
The city did pass an amendment that some people weren’t happy with, limiting drag “performances," but they are interpreting the law to mean performing. Leaders don’t believe the law bans drag queens per se from attending. So all are invited.
"We’re proud to have drag queens and the transgender community come and walk and ride in floats down Wilton Drive," Wilton Manors Mayor Scott Newton said. "And that’s not going to change, not on our watch."
"The amendment we passed protects city employees since language in the law directly affects them," Caputo, the city commissioner, explained. “It’s one thing for the Governor to recall my elected seat; it would be poor leadership on my part to put city staff at risk of being unemployed for any duration. I can afford a protracted legal battle without my city position; they shouldn’t have to."
This, to me, is a creative approach in which people are finding a way around the law. It may still be risky, and obviously, City Commissioner Caputo is putting his seat on the line. But someone’s got to stand up, and I applaud him for doing so. No fight comes without risks, and that’s something I would hope the LGBTQ movement—and every movement for equality—has learned over these many years.
Caving without a fight gives a victory to the bully DeSantis and emboldens him and others to go further. Now is not the time to cancel Pride.