The Board hadn’t denied a request for a permit in eight years, but it denied this one, despite the objections of O’Nan and maybe a dozen other Pride organizers and supporters present. Two “really, really long” weeks until the next meeting followed, during which O’Nan and her fellow organizers spread the word. It was then that what might have otherwise been a small parade mushroomed into a big one.
“At the second meeting, it was packed. People were standing outside the building, there were hundreds of people, it was just this overwhelming support from the community,” O’Nan says. “It was incredible. Local businesses were supporting it, churches were supporting it.”
Any big factors besides community support helped secure the parade permit? “That,” she says, “and also, we threatened a lawsuit.”
“We live in a small town, one of the most conservative towns in Indiana,” says Shelly Snyder, founder of the Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition. “It’s a very, very red area, so that makes this huge. People are telling us, ‘I can’t believe you got this to happen.’”
Snyder is the driving force behind Lawrenceburg’s parade, which she says will also be one of the first sober parades due to the disproportionate rates of alcohol and drug abuse that affect the LGBTQ community. “Did we lose people and sponsors that won’t come? Probably. But we’d rather stick to our morals,” Snyder says. “I’m not down on anyone that doesn’t have a sober Pride -- I go to all of those too. This is just what we chose to do here.”
The parade route will pass several bars for those who still choose to imbibe, and will have several dozen of its own food vendors, plus a drag show. The mayor is providing barricades and a police escort free of charge (often not the case elsewhere with bigger parades) though he denied motor vehicles and a float (“He didn’t really say [why], and we weren’t going to push our luck at that moment.”) Snyder thinks the event could pull in 1,000 people if the weather holds. I mention the turnout at Columbus’ rainy-day parade.
“Oh I hope that happens for us, we’ve been working so hard. The RFRA that Mike Pence passed, it destroyed the LGBT community here,” says Snyder, referring to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015, which allows businesses to refuse service on religious grounds (think bakeries and same-sex weddings). “It shocked us all when it passed. We live in a state where you can be fired for being gay. My trans daughter went to a [Catholic] hospital for something unrelated to trans services, and they turned her away... but we got our momentum back now.”
Lawrenceburg’s a town of about 5,000 people a half hour west of Cincinnati. For the record, Cincinnati folks: nothing more interesting is happening in your city this weekend. Might as well road-trip it.
Yonkers, New York
You may be detecting a red-state trend here, but first-time Pride festivals aren’t limited to conservative areas. Yonkers is enthusiastically holdings its first Pride the afternoon of June 9. This one won’t have an actual parade, since organizers have no idea what the turnout will be, but they’re hoping the festival will be successful enough to prepare a parade for next year. In the meantime, you can expect food and drink vendors, live music, workshops, and film screenings.