Out Raleigh Pride returns Saturday amid series of bills affecting LGBTQ+ community

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Saturday, June 24, 2023
Out Raleigh Pride returns Saturday
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Out Raleigh Pride is set to take place downtown on Saturday as organizers anticipate a turnout in-line with last year's historic high.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Out Raleigh Pride is set to take place downtown on Saturday, as organizers anticipate a turnout in-line with last year's historic high.

"I like to say (Pride) it's a giant party. It's a celebration of diversity, inclusion, and while it's really fun, it's an event that's meant to raise awareness about the LGBT (and) queer community that we're here and that we're not a threat. It's just it's a really great way for people to come out, show support and learn more about the community," said Jose Harvey, Treasurer of the LGBT Center of Raleigh.

Harvey is owner of Urban Pothos Houseplant Shop on West Peace Street, and flies a pride flag outside his business.

"It makes us a target. It's been ripped down so many times. One time somebody lit it on fire outside. I've (had) people rip it down and pee on it. But we always buy a new one and we stick it right back up. So I just think that that representation really matters and that's why we fly it," said Harvey.

Both Harvey and the LGBT Center of Raleigh's interim Executive Director Kori Hennessey said they believe this year's event takes on greater meaning, as it comes as a series of bills affecting LGBTQ+ people moves forward in the State Legislature.

Wednesday, the House Education Committee passed Senate Bill 49, known as Parents' Bill of Rights, would prohibit instruction on gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality in kindergarten through fourth grade curriculums.

Later that morning, a Senate Health Committee passed House Bill 808, which would ban gender transition surgical procedures for children - with narrow exceptions.

Thursday, the House voted to send House Bill 574 to Governor Cooper's desk which would mandate athletes in middle school, high school, and college play with their sex assigned at birth.

"These laws are pointless distractions from bigger issues in our country and in our state that need to be addressed. But it's easier to find a scapegoat. And the LGBTQ community has been a scapegoat for our society since the beginning of time. So it's nothing new to us. We are constantly always being attacked, so we never let our guard down," said Harvey.

Hennessey explained the importance of representation and support, including from businesses.

"Seeing that support is step one. Finding the places that are intentionally doing things to help the community is step two. And so I absolutely think that Pride this year is more important than the last several years that we've had it for sure," Hennessey said.

This year, the event will include a marching band, expanded Kids Zone, local vendors and artists, food, a beer garden, and for the first time a Wellness Pavilion, which will highlight services toward the LGBTQ+ community. Hennessey said 75,000 people attended in 2022, which was the 10th year of the event.

"I think that the biggest thing that Pride does for people is create a space where people can come and just be among their community, even if they haven't necessarily figured themselves out or if they haven't come out to anybody. It's a space where they can almost just blend in and experience everything and find their people and find the things that they need without feeling the pressure of having to come out or having those conversations with people," said Hennessey.

The free festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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