Barely 90 seconds into his speech Thursday morning announcing the start of Pride Month in St. Petersburg, Mayor Ken Welch addressed the elephant in the room: Current and proposed state legislation restricting the rights of LGBTQ citizens of Florida.
“We are standing together for progress, and we are standing against ignorance and hatred,” Welch said before proclaiming June Pride Month in the city, and raising the rainbow Pride flag outside City Hall – the 10th consecutive annual ceremony.
“It has not been an easy road, this year especially,” Welch said. “But as Dr. King said, we are here and we are standing. And we are poised to host the largest, most diverse, most inclusive – and the best – Pride celebration in the United States. Our city will never give in, nor give up on our work to build inclusive progress for all.”
Members of the St. Petersburg City Council, State Rep. Lindsay Cross, Treasure Island Mayor Tyler Payne and other dignitaries joined St. Pete Pride President Tiffany Freisberg and Executive Director Nicole Berman in standing behind Welch as he renewed the city’s commitment to equality and inclusion.
“If we are to achieve true equality in our nation for everyone, regardless of our race, our faith, our orientation, our identity, then we must have the courage to stand for the rights of everyone,” he said. “Regardless of who they are or who they love.”
St. Pete Pride events begins with a Kickoff Party Friday, on the 2200 and 2300 blocks of Central Avenue, and continue throughout the month. The main event – the festival and parade, the largest in Florida – is scheduled for Saturday, June 24.
“This year, the LGBTQIA community – my community – has faced countless, cowardly attacks and attempts to silence our voices, restrict our rights and erase our presence,” Berman said.
“Well, I hate to break it to anyone who thinks our community doesn’t belong in Florida … you can’t stop us. We are here, we are freaking fabulous, and we are not going anywhere.”
Berman is Friday’s guest on the St. Pete Catalyst‘s Arts Alive! podcast.