PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — It’s a celebratory weekend on Pensacola Beach, as rainbow flags fly high and groups of LGBTQ+ folks pile onto the white sands for a weekend full of beach fun and events, like raves and live music.
“Everybody brings out their tents and we just hangout and everybody has fun,” said Pensacola resident Jacob Stockwell.
But, for those in attendance, this weekend comes after prominent activist groups, like the NAACP started issuing travel advisories, warning minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, that recent Florida legislation may pose a risk to their safety.
Recent data from the Human Rights Council says a record-number 540 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures and 70 anti-LGBTQ+ laws have already been enacted this year.
In Florida, six anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been signed into law this year. Among them, a bill banning Drag performances if a minor could reasonably witness the show.
Some cities, like Tampa, canceled their Pride events all together, worried that performances and events will violate the new law. Organizers with Pensacola Beach Pride say any drag performances as part of their event happen at outside venues, and even so their event is private for people 18 and up only.
“I did hear from my own circles that there were people that were canceling their plans out of fear for the new legislation that’s been going out but we’re headstrong and we’re determined to be seen and represented,” said Stockwell.
People will come from all over the weekend events in Pensacola.
“Visitors when they think about Pensacola, its the residents and the hospitality that they receive,” said Darien Schaefer, CEO of Visit Pensacola. “We always see that really high in the visitors survey, the intercepts that we do. And so the idea that Pensacola is really welcoming to all and its a vibe and feel that we have in our community.”
The Pride festivities will being going on at Park East on Pensacola Beach throughout the weekend.
“It’s all about acceptance and love,” said Bo Case, who has attended the event for almost 30 years. “And we are who we are. Why should we stay away. We’re bringing a lot of revenue into Pensacola this weekend.”