News (USA)

Florida cities fly Pride flags after the GOP’s failed attempt to ban them

Clover Anglin holds a small LGBTQ+ flag as he takes his position on the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida in preparation of lighting the bridge in pride rainbow colors on May 31, 2024.
Clover Anglin holds a small LGBTQ+ flag as he takes his position on the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida in preparation of lighting the bridge in pride rainbow colors on May 31, 2024. Photo: Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

After Florida Republicans tried unsuccessfully to pass a law banning government buildings from flying Pride flags earlier this year, several cities around the state hoisted the rainbow stripes over the weekend to mark the start of Pride Month.

Late last year, state Rep. David Borrero (R) introduced legislation banning flags “that represent a political viewpoint, including, but not limited to, a politically partisan, racial, sexual orientation and gender, or political ideology viewpoint.” H.B. 901 would have banned such flags not only from schools but from flying above government buildings and universities.

But the bill died during the most recent legislative session, leaving local governments free to fly Pride flags this month.

On Friday, the city of St. Petersburg got an early start to Pride Month, raising the Progress Pride flag at City Hall. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), state Reps. Lindsay Cross (D) and Michele Rayner (D), Mayor Ken Welch (D), and the St. Petersburg City Council were on hand for the flag-raising ceremony.

“Together, by raising the Pride flag at City Hall, our city boldly and unapologetically acts on its commitment to inclusivity, the celebration of diversity, and the simple but profound idea that people should have the freedom to love who they love,” Cross said. “This is in stark contrast to attempts at the state level to stifle our celebrations and to dim the light of beautiful members of our community.”

Cross noted the proposed flag ban and her vote against it. “Gratefully, due to the loud and proud voices that opposed the bill, it did not pass,” she said. “So, this year, as we stand under this Pride flag, we celebrate this small but important victory. Because we should not live in fear of repercussions from safe self-expression.”

“This marks the beginning of a celebration for equal rights for all across St. Petersburg, and I hope it shines like a beacon to the rest of the state, to the rest of the country,” Castor told the crowd.   

On Saturday morning, a crowd of nearly 100 gathered to see the Progress Pride flag hoisted above the Gulfport Public Library in the city of Gulfport in Pinellas County in a ceremony attended by Vice Mayor and City Council member Ian O’Hara, members of the city council, Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, Pinellas County School Board member Caprice Edmond, Gecko Queen Robert Daunch, and candidates for Florida’s 13th Congressional District Whitney Fox and John Liccione.

The same day, the City of Miami raised the Progress Pride flag over its City Hall. “It’s important to understand that it’s celebration because of how far the LGBTQ community has come,” commissioner Damian Pardo said of Pride in a video posted to the City of Miami’s official X account. “It’s incredibly important to thank the city of Miami for creating a safe space for us in the LGBTQ community.”

“During this Pride Month, we’re showing up and we’re showing out, and we’re letting the world know that the LGBTQ community is safe in the city of Miami,” Michael Roman, Community Partnerships & Strategy Manager for the City of Miami’s Department of Human Services and the city’s LGBTQ Advisor Liaison said.

The flag-raisings continued on Monday in Tampa and Orlando.

“During Pride Month and year-round, Orlando will continue to show that inclusion, kindness, and compassion are more powerful than divisiveness, hatred, and fear,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer wrote in an X post, along with a photo of the intersex-inclusive Progress Pride flag flying over City Hall. “As Mayor, I am proud that our city is a place that values, supports, and welcomes LGBTQ+ residents and visitors.”

“The colors of love and progress are flying high in Orlando as we raise the Progress Pride Flag at Orlando City Hall in celebration of our LGBTQ+ community and their ongoing fight for equality,” a post on the city’s official X account read.

In Tampa on Monday morning, Mayor Jane Castor (D) gave a brief history of the original rainbow Pride flag’s origins before raising the rainbow-striped flag above the city’s Old City Hall.

“It really is a wonderful definition and proclamation of our community and the pride that we have,” Castor said of the flag. Members of Tampa’s LGBTQ+ community “are our police officers, our firefighters, our paramedics, the individuals that protect our country down at MacDill Air Force Base, they are our teachers, our nurses. They are our neighbors, our friends, and our family. It is our community, and we’re very, very proud of that.”

Castor also called on those gathered to “continue to stay focused on ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity and respect” in the face of the recent rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in Florida and across the nation.

On Tuesday morning, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (D), County Commissioner Eileen Higgins, and other local leaders will raise the Pride flag about the city’s Stephen P. Clark Government Center. According to a press release, this will mark the fourth consecutive year that the Miami-Dade County government has raised the Pride flag “to reaffirm our commitment to making Miami-Dade an inclusive, welcoming County that celebrates our rich diversity.”

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