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Tampa Pride on the River event canceled amid new laws condemned by LGBTQ+ community

St. Pete Pride organizers plan to continue activities in June.

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Pride organizers canceled the group's Pride on the River event later this year after Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a series of new legislation condemned by the LGBTQ+ community.

Its president, Carrie West, acknowledged the decision amid fear over the new laws.

"We do not want to be picked up or arrested and then taking away our license," West said

West says the annual event usually draws in about 20,000 people. The festivities include a parade down the Hillsborough River, drag brunches and several shows happening throughout the day. 

“It’s right on the Riverwalk in Tampa and they have no fencing, so we can’t stop anybody from seeing it,” West explained.

He says Tampa Pride will readdress what their plans will be for the event come next year. As for the next Tampa Pride event, including its parade, West says there are no plans to cancel activities in 2024.

Speaking Wednesday at the Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, DeSantis signed bills that ban gender-affirming care for minors, target drag shows, restrict discussion of personal pronouns in schools and force people to use certain bathrooms.

One of the new laws, called the "Protection of Children," bars children's exposure to adult live performances and lewd behavior.  

While the law doesn't specifically mention drag shows, the bill defines "adult live performances" as "any show, exhibition, or other presentation that is performed in front of a live audience and in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, specific sexual activities, ... lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts."

In a handout distributed during Wednesday's news conference, the governor's office said the law "protects children from sexually explicit adult performances in all venues — including drag shows and strip clubs." 

The law also "imposes fines and license suspension for hotels and restaurants that admit a child into an adult performance." 

Critics have said the legislation was so vague that Pride parades could be in jeopardy. Before the bill was even passed, some voiced worry local governments might feel pressure to deny permits for public pride events.

In total, Tampa Pride brings in around 80,000 people each year, West said, adding that age limits are in place for certain entertainment shows.

“Tampa Pride is going to go on, and it's our 10-year anniversary,” he said. 

When it comes to St. Pete Pride set in June, organizers continue planning for the month ahead. 

"We have been in close communication with the city of St. Pete to make sure that we stay in compliance with regulations and policies that govern an event of our size," said Dr. Byron Green, co-vice president of St. Pete Pride.

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