River City Pride lifts the rainbow flag amid Florida’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislative crackdown

Story by: Carter Mudgett

Amid a state-wide anti-LGBTQ+ in Florida legislation, Jacksonville’s River City Pride is working to push back against the hate and fight for the community. 

When Mayor Donna Deegan was elected and turned Jacksonville blue, it marked a major win not just for diversity initiatives in the city, but for the LGBTQ+ community too. Established as a nonprofit in 1989, River City Pride has been a long-standing champion of LGBTQ+ rights in not just Jacksonville, but the entirety of Florida. 

The organization celebrated their annual River City Pride Parade in early October, capping off week-long festivities. Mayor Deegan made clear her commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and diversity as grand marshal of the parade. 

Thousands of residents and many businesses marched in the parade itself, waved rainbow flags from the sidewalks and participated in week-long festivities. 

“The shift recently, especially with the election of Mayor Deacon, kind of shows that Jacksonville is no longer being that good ol’ boy hub and being controlled by the far right that has kind of made it feel unfriendly to [the LGBTQ+] community,” said River City Pride President Travis Guthrie. 

There were 725 anti-LGBTQ plus bills introduced across America this year, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank researching equality and opportunity.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has waged a war on diversity, equity and inclusion since January. DeSantis signed a record six expressly anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, more than the last seven years combined.

Yet, even in the face of legislative pushback, the mayor’s participation in Pride celebrations this year threw a spotlight on the river city, making it clear that diversity was something to be celebrated in Jacksonville, not ousted.