St. Petersburg – For the first time in its 12-year history, St. Pete Pride was welcomed with open arms by St. Petersburg’s mayor during a June 12 City Council meeting. The organization was so celebrated, in fact, that a large, rainbow flag adorned the back of the council chambers—a major milestone considering for 11 years the festival was ignored or—at the very least—tolerated.
“I think it’s fantastic. It’s beautiful,” commented Rev. Candis Shultis of the King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church. Shultis was invited to offer the opening prayer and stayed for the reading of two big proclamations and to hear a few big announcements from the mayor.
One big announcement is that during a special 9 a.m. ceremony on Thursday, June 26, Kriseman will raise a rainbow flag above City Hall to mark the beginning of St. Pete Pride weekend.
He also read a long proclamation declaring June Pride Month in St. Petersburg and highlighted a long list of the city’s accomplishments concerning LGBT equality.
The reasons for his support of the LGBT community were listed in the proclamation, which touched on the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, which was amended in 2002 to add sexual orientation as a protected status in housing and public accommodations. He also mentioned Pinellas County’s HRO and the addition of gender and identity and expression to those protected.
He also mentioned the city’s financial support of Pride this year in his proclamation and cited the estimated $10.5 million the festival brings to the city each summer.
And the mayor didn’t stop there. He announced the newly created position of LGBT liaison to the Mayor’s Office, which he awarded to city marketing director Robert Danielson. He also announced that Lt. Marcus Hughes of the St. Petersburg Police Department will serve as the LGBT liaison to the police department.
“Both serving as a point of contact for LGBT business owners and residents,” Kriseman explained.
He also talked about the excitement surrounding Metro Wellness and Community Centers’ new LGBT Welcome Center, which will open this summer on Central Avenue.
Before the council meeting, Kriseman met with several council members and members of the media to sign the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” petition in his office. He read it aloud during the council meeting and declared June 12 “Freedom to Marry Day” in St. Petersburg.
“Marriage is an important and meaningful institution that all citizens of the City of St. Petersburg and the State of Florida should have the freedom to participate,” Kriseman read aloud in a packed council chamber. He added, “June is Pride month celebrating our city’s LGBT community and the contribution to making our city a better home for all people. Same-sex couples are raising children and contributing to the betterment of our city and society every day.”
Kriseman has been a long-time supporter of the LGBT community, signing the first Pride proclamation in the city when he was a council member in 2003. In April, before he signed the marriage petition, he said he supported marriage equality, and mentioned that his sister, a lesbian, had to travel out of her home state of Georgia to wed her partner.
“No one should have to leave the state to get married,” he said in that interview.
Krisman is the first sitting mayor of the city to fully support St. Pete Pride in its 12 year history. He plans to be the first mayor of the city to march in the parade, which is at dusk on Saturday, June 28 in the Grand Central District.
The proclamations received praise from council members Darden Rice, and Steve Kornell, who are both members of the LGBT community. Rice, who won her seat in November, is also a grand marshal in this year’s pride parade.
“I fully applaud the mayor for understanding the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Rice said. “It’s an honor to serve with him. The issue of inclusiveness is close to my heart. The mayor has acted with courage and I stand with him in making diversity and inclusion a priority in our community.”
St. Pete Pride executive director Eric Skains thanked the mayor for his support, and said that the evolution of Pride is significant.
“What started off as a march has turned into a celebration,” Skains said, referring to the Stonewall Riots of New York in 1969. “But on days like this, we see that the dominoes of inequality are collapsing and I am thrilled we have such a diverse city here.”
St. Pete Pride is a three-day celebration this year. A concert at the State Theatre is scheduled for Friday, June 27, the organization’s first-ever night parade begins at dusk on Saturday, June 28, and the street festival is slated for 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday, June 29.