Rescheduled Virginia PrideFest ‘a chance to center, prepare for election’
- Written by Hollyann Purvis | Capital News Service
- Category: Local News
- Published: 26 September 2023
Virginia Pridefest has been rescheduled to the end of October, but LGBTQ advocates also have Nov. 7 marked on the calendar.
Tropical storm Ophelia ushered in severe weather that led to the postponement of an event organizers expected to draw thousands to downtown Richmond.
This story was reported and written by Capital News Service
The new date will be on Oct. 22 at the Bon Secours Training Center, according to Virginia Pride Director James Millner. The event will start at noon, he confirmed, with more details to be announced soon.
Pride is an important event for the Richmond region, Millner said.
“Pride is, in itself, not a political event, but it sends a very powerful message to those in politics and those in power that the LGBTQ community is resilient,” Millner said. “It’s formidable, and it’s not going to be pushed back into the shadows of society.”
Most Pride events are held in June around the world to commemorate the Stonewall riots that occurred in 1969.
PrideFest in recent years has been hosted at Brown’s Island, an outdoor riverfront venue that can accommodate the exponentially growing number of attendees. Though the main event was postponed, peripheral indoor events at music venues and clubs still took place, including a Tegan and Sara concert moved to The National.
Up the hill and just under a mile away from Brown’s Island sits the Virginia State Capitol.
“Every single vote counts”
All 140 seats in the General Assembly are open in November. Both parties are vying to take control of the House and Senate, which are currently split. Republicans have a majority in the House, and Democrats in the Senate. The resulting legislative gridlock has weakened each party’s agenda.
PrideFest would usually include vendors and organizations that connect with attendees and offer voting information, according to Millner.
“We certainly encourage people to engage in the political process, to let their voices be heard, to show up, to speak out, and to, most importantly, vote,” Millner said.
The next General Assembly session could be a “tipping point” in terms of LGBTQ rights, according to Millner.
“Think long and hard about how you’re going to vote, and how that vote will impact LGBTQ equality, and how that will impact the ability of LGBTQ people to live authentically, whether it be at work or at home or in school,” Millner said.
Shannon McKay is the co-founder and executive director of He She Ze and We, a nonprofit for transgender and nonbinary people. McKay described PrideFest as “pure joy,” but said its delay was the “right call.”
PrideFest is an opportunity to center and prepare for the election ahead, McKay said.
“Just being with everyone and kind of filling my bucket for months and months to come that we’re going to need to get through the election and whatever happens in Virginia’s General Assembly,” McKay said.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration recently rewrote guidance for Virginia schools, which updated existing policies in place for transgender students. Thousands of students across Virginia walked out of school in protest.
“Transgender students and non-binary students are at such risk and such danger right now,” McKay said. “We have many, many places that have protective policies in place that consider the rights of transgender students … and they’re considering rolling that back and taking away all of it.”
Younger LGBTQ people face “tremendous risk,”McKay said.
“I think it’s so important for folks to just, first of all, remember that every single vote counts, and we really need people to vet their candidates,” McKay said.
Twelve anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year, according to Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria. Ebbin, the first openly gay member elected to the state legislature, encouraged Virginians to consider LGBTQ rights at the ballot box.
“Every piece of progress that Virginia has made to be a forward-thinking state, both for LGBTQ people particularly, as well as the community at large, is at stake on Nov. 7,” Ebbin said. “The rights that we’ve won in Virginia, the only Southern state to outlaw discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, can easily go away.”
Outside of Virginia, over 70 anti-LGBTQ bills were signed into law, according to Ebbin. The Human Rights Campaign tracked over 520 such bills introduced into statehouses across the U.S.
“I hope they will turn out and realize the stakes that, in particular, our allies realize the stakes, what’s at stake for people who believe in equal treatment under the law,” Ebbin said.
One of the notable things about this election is the number of openly LGBTQ candidates on the ballot, according to Ebbin.
“If you’re gay, you should remember you’re gay when you’re voting and that your rights are very much at risk,” Ebbin said.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University's Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.