For much of this century Gay Pride was literally banned in Tampa’s Hillsborough County as infamous County commissioner Rhonda Storms led a vote to “adopt a policy that Hillsborough County government abstain from acknowledging, promoting or participating in gay pride recognition and events, little g, little p”. It passed effectively banning all sanctioned Pride events from Hillsborough County. Storms then added an amendment to complete the erasure of the LGBTQ+ community by requiring a supermajority to repeal the ban. It took more than a decade to reverse that hate. The LGBTQ+ community thought it was the worst attack they would ever see. That is until 2023 and along comes Governor Ron DeSantis. In an exclusive interview with Tampa Pride’s President Carrie West, he tells a chilling tale about the attacks from Tallahassee on Tampa Bay. But he also has lots of news about the success of the Tampa Pride event the last weekend in March.
Tampa Pride is arguably one of the most successful in Florida. Operating on a budget that is in the black of $470,000, a leading University of South Florida economist estimates the economic impact of Tampa pride at nearly $4 million dollars. Tampa Pride is historic Ybor City’s largest single economic impact.
In an exclusive interview with Tampa Pride’s President Carrie West, he expresses regret of what he is watching from the Governor’s mansion. For example, he reports Pride has lost 6 major sponsors at a cash value of more than $100,000. Interestingly they are all national companies outside of the State. West says “National out of state business brands have pulled out of the parade and festival because they are afraid of the politics going on in Florida. They report that they are worried about ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and the growing issues over Drag Queens.” West indicates difficulty with Alcohol companies because they are particularly sensitive to Governor DeSantis actions. He indicates his orchestrated attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and allies are creating a chill effect on their decision making. He says “The director of one alcohol sponsor said that if Governor Desantis can take on Disney, he could become President and then he can take on any business. Including ours.”
West also reports that the Governor’s office is threatening pride in other ways. As example, Tampa receives a $30,000 grant from Florida’s Department of Cultural Affairs and when the political arms of State government realized the state was supporting a gay organization and enquiry was initiated as to why. While Tampa Pride is funded for the grant in 2023 and 2024 West says he is concerned what will happen next.
Tampa Pride has received threats and official letters. A sample is one shared by the Florida’s Department of Professional Regulation that was sent to Orlando Philharmonic for their RuPaul Drag Race Christmas Show in December. Florida is threatening to suspend or revoke liquor licenses. (Broward Center, R House). Hate groups continue to send emails about disruption of Tampa Pride.