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Gay couples lobby Congress on immigration reform

‘We live in a very uncertain and scary place’

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Immigration Equality, United States Senate, gay news, Washington Blade
Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado, gay news, Washington Blade, immigration equality

Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado and children Jorienne and Jashley Mercado. (Washington Blade photo by Blake Bergen)

For Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado, the debate on comprehensive immigration reform in Congress is a make-or-break moment that will determine whether their family can remain together in the United States.

The California couple, among the estimated 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples living in the United States, paid a visit to Capitol Hill on Wednesday along with other couples for a lobby day bearing a singular message: include the Uniting American Families Act as part of larger immigration reform.

Tan, a 47-year-old Philippines native who was denied asylum in 2009 and has since been threatened with deportation, said the inclusion of UAFA would be incredibly meaningful for her San Francisco-based family — as well as for other bi-national couples.

“My partner Jay, for 27 years, is faced with the problem of whether she has to quit her job and take everybody back to the Philippines,” Tan said. “She has an ailing mother who is on dialysis treatment right now, and I’m the one taking care of her, so don’t know if we have to put her in the home, and what about the kids? The Philippines is a foreign country to them.”

About 50 gay, bi-national couples from 26 states came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday as part of a lobby day effort organized by the LGBT group Immigration Equality.

Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, called the lobbying by the couples “really a huge asset” in ensuring protections for same-sex couples are included as part of immigration reform.

“These families today are here to look their members of Congress [in the eye], especially look their senators in the eye, one more time and tell them how much this matters to LGBT families,” Tiven said. “Everyone here knows that they’re representing not only themselves, not only their state, but they’re representing all the LGBT immigrants around the country, and around the world, that are waiting for change.”

Bi-national same-sex couples, where one individual is a foreign national and another is a U.S. citizen, are threatened with separation under current immigration code once the foreign national in the relationship falls out of legal status.

Straight Americans can sponsor their partners for residency in the United States, but that option isn’t available to gay Americans because of the Defense of Marriage Act and because they can’t marry in many places within the country. UAFA would enable gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency.

The moment for these bi-national same-sex couples will come soon. LGBT advocates are expecting an amendment along the lines of UAFA, which would enable gay Americans to sponsor their partners for residency in the United States, to come up when the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on the comprehensive immigration reform bill that was produced by the “Gang of Eight.”

On Wednesday, the couples met with a variety of lawmakers from across the country. On the agenda for Tan and Mercada was a meeting with staffers for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). A member of the committee, Feinstein has yet to make a public statement on whether she’ll support UAFA as part of immigration reform.

Mercado, 52, said the meeting went well, but the staffer for the California senator wouldn’t make promises about how she’d vote if a UAFA amendment came before the committee.

“She doesn’t know the exact answer from the senator, but she’s positive that she will be doing the right thing,” Tan said. “They saw a lot of the families that are affected, and most of the families that are affected by, the most bi-national couples, are in California. They say it’s about 10,000 couples in California alone.”

Feinstein’s office is staying quiet about whether she will support UAFA. Asked by the Washington Blade whether she’ll vote in favor of the legislation as an amendment to comprehensive immigration reform, Brian Weiss, a Feinstein spokesperson, said on Wednesday, “Sen. Feinstein is taking a look at the legislation. No announcement at this time.”

The California senator’s silence on UAFA is striking because the former San Francisco mayor is known for being a strong supporter for LGBT rights. She’s been the lead sponsor of legislation aimed at repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. Feinstein has also introduced a “private bill” limited to Tan and Mercado to keep them together in the United States.

The couple also met with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), another UAFA co-sponsor, who gave her personal assurances that she’d vote in favor of a UAFA amendment as part of immigration reform once the legislation comes over to the House.

Tan and Mercado have made their case on Capitol Hill before. In 2009, Tan testified before the Senate on the importance of passing UAFA. Her testimony at the time, in which she recalled her arrest in 2009 when immigration officials took her from her home, was considered moving. It inspired tears from her children, to whom Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said their mother was a brave woman.

Jorienne and Jashley Mercado — now 16 — accompanied their parents for the lobby day on Capitol Hill to help make the case for UAFA and had an audience with Leahy himself, the sponsor of UAFA in the Senate, four years after that hearing.

“We thanked him for supporting our families and being a champion for our families, that he’s helping out all of us,” Jashley said. “He said, ‘I’m glad that I’m helping you guys because you guys are really an inspiration.'”

Jorienne said passage of UAFA as part of immigration reform would offer his family assurances that his mother would be able to stay in the country without fear of deportation.

“It would mean a tremendous amount to our family because our mom is such an integral part of our family,” Jorienne said. “If we don’t have her here with us, then we’re not a family.”

Despite words from supporters like Leahy, it’s not clear UAFA will ultimately be included in immigration reform. The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Democrats are “treading carefully” because they’re wary of adding another issue to immigration reform that has already been attacked by conservatives like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Still, Tiven maintained inclusion of same-sex couples in the larger vehicle would motivate the LGBT community to act.

“The LGBT community is a tremendous asset to pushing comprehensive immigration reform forward to the finish line,” Tiven said. “The LGBT community has proven over and over again — at the state level, at the federal level — we know how to get things done. We know how to pass legislation and we are bringing our power to LGBT-inclusive immigration reform.”

‘We still live in a very uncertain and scary place’

Also among the couples on Capitol Hill was Sam Conlon and Gary Wanderlingh, who reside in New Fairfield, Conn. Wanderlingh is seeking the opportunity to sponsor Conlon, a British national, for residency in the United States. Married in Connecticut in 2011, the couple has twice filed spousal petitions that were both denied on March 29.

While relocating to the United Kingdom is an option for the couple, Wanderlingh, 43, said he doesn’t want to leave New Fairfield because he’s taught in the same school district for 18 years. He’d lose his pension and would have to renew his teacher certification if he moved overseas.

“The most compelling thing is my elderly mother, where unfortunately my father passed away on what would have been our wedding day, our scheduled wedding day,” Wanderlingh said. “I made a promise to him that I would take care of mom, though now I’m being faced with the choice of breaking the promise that I made to Sam to be together for the rest of our lives.”

Upon their visit to Capitol Hill, the couple visited the office of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who’s already a UAFA co-sponsor. Conlon said they also spoke with staffers for Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), and while they were supportive, received no commitments. Neither Murphy’s office nor Larson responded to the Blade’s request for comment on UAFA.

Conlon, 36, said he’s glad there’s an opportunity to have immigration reform passed that would help his family.

“We’re glad to see that there is a buzz around this,” Conlon said. “It’s very encouraging to see the winds changing in our direction in the last few months. But there’s never any guarantees, until it’s passed, until we know we have rights, we still live in a very uncertain and scary place.”

There could be another option for bi-national same-sex couples who are married. If the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling that strikes down Section 3 of DOMA, gay Americans could begin sponsoring their same-sex spouses for residency within the country. However, it’s not certain the court will strike down DOMA and other issues could arise in which UAFA would be needed.

Ben Story, Brandon Perlberg, gay news, Washington Blade, immigration equality

Ben Story and Brandon Perlberg (Washington Blade photo by Blake Bergen)

Brandon Perlberg, 35, and Benn Storey, 31, who are living in exile in London after Perlberg, a U.S. citizen, had lived in New York City for 15 years and Storey, a British national, lived there for seven years. Although they aren’t married, they’re engaged and planning a London wedding.

Perlberg, an attorney, explained he chose to live in exile with Storey, who couldn’t remain in the United States after his work visa expired and he couldn’t get a green card through his employer.

“Because I can’t sponsor him for a green card, it became clear that Benn was going to have to move to the U.K., and that meant that I had to make a decision over whether I was to live my life in the country, or move to England with the person that I love,” Perlberg said. “I chose the latter. We moved to the U.K. in 2012. UAFA is the bridge; UAFA is the instrument that gives us the ability to return to the United States.”

The couple met with staffers for lawmakers from New York — Reps. Hakeen Jeffries (D) and Carolyn Maloney (D) — and had plans to meet with staffers for Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who co-sponsor UAFA.

“When you meet with a staffer, they can’t give you a firm position,” Perlberg said. “But I think that the meetings were generally positive. People seemed to understand our position, and as well, they seem to get that it’s not just about the couple, it’s about the couple’s family, it’s about the couple’s employers, it’s about the people that the couple relates to.”

Not every individual lobbied members of Congress with their significant other. Michael Upton, a gay 49-year-old South Hero, Vt., resident, came to Capitol Hill by himself because his partner of more than five years, a Brazilian national, is unable to come into the United States.

“It’s awful,” Upton said. “We’ve never been able to be together. He’s never met my family. My dad actually recently passed away. We petitioned for humanitarian parole so he could be there in Vermont, so we would have to choose. It was denied. I was in Brazil when my father died, so I couldn’t be with my family.”

Because the two live apart in different countries, Upton said he had to give up his job at the Veteran’s Administration caring for troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan to become a federal contractor so he could he have more flexibility to travel to see his partner.

Upton said he met on Capitol Hill with Leahy, and said the senator told him he’d do everything he could to ensure immigration reform is amended to include UAFA. Upton said he also met with staffers for gay Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), who also expressed support.

For Upton, passage of UAFA as part of immigration reform is the last hope for him and his partner to stay together in the United States. While he’s hopeful, he also realizes there’s no guarantee.

“This is the difference between whether or not we can continue,” said Upton as his eyes welled with tears. “I’m hopeful, but I’ve been hopeful about a number of opportunities for John to come and they’ve fallen flat. My state has the champion for this issue, and I think he’s completely committed, and he’s one of the most powerful men in the Senate, so if anybody can do it, he can.”

Immigration Equality, United States Senate, gay news, Washington Blade

Bi-national same-sex couples lobby Congress to include UAFA as part of immigration reform. (Washington Blade photo by Blake Bergen)

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed quotes to Sam Conlon and Gary Wanderlingh. Additionally, the article incorrectly suggested UAFA could be an alternative for gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States after DOMA is struck down if their relationship isn’t a legal marriage. However, UAFA won’t be operative for these couples after DOMA is gone because Section 2, Part D of UAFA states the law doesn’t apply to couples who are able to enter into “a marriage cognizable under the Act,” which would be all bi-national couples in a post-DOMA world. The Blade regrets the errors.

Lavi Soloway, a gay immigration attorney and co-founder of The DOMA Project, explained further the situation for bi-national couples in a post-DOMA world.

“After Section 3 of DOMA is struck down, many unmarried lesbian and gay binational couples will marry in the states or countries where marriage is legal for same-sex couples,” Soloway said. “Those couples already living in ‘marriage equality’ states will be able to marry where they live, while other couples will travel out of state to marry as gay and lesbian couples do every day in this country. Thousands of bi-national couples who are separated or exiled abroad and who are not married, may be eligible to petition for fiance visas so that the foreign partner can come to the United States to marry and to apply for a green card based on that marriage. Because immigration law is so complicated and so much is at stake in these cases, all binational couples are strongly advised not to take any action after the Supreme Court rules on DOMA without first seeking legal counsel. “

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Robben Wainer

    April 26, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    We must set laws according to public consensus. When gay couples are getting married the law must provide them with the right to do so. There is so much talk about what is moral, when people feel the inclination to show their love for one another as a permanent bond, the law must give to what they people want, say, think, and feel, to show that they can be praised for expressing, this honesty, openness and freedom.

  2. Melanie Nathan

    April 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    This so called LOBBY was nothing but a fund raising poly on behalf of the group Immigration Equality – which is seeking desperately to maintain its relevance in this arena. It failed binational couples when it had the opportunity in 2009 to use Shirley and Jay, – (my client at the time – who I helped get Private Bill introduced by Sen. Feinstein) After the UAFA hearing, Instead of lobbying then for UAFA, they diverted the advocacy to "immigration reform". And failed to pursue the UAFA hearings and failed to pursue the lobbying needed at the time for UAFA to be the stand alone it could have been THEN. But now we don't need it because DOMA is going to fall in June. See my article about this ploy. See my article explaining http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/04/26/exploitation-of-binational-same-sex-couples-continues-as-immigration-equality-continues-to-fund-raise-on-the-back-of-its-failure/.

  3. Melanie Nathan

    April 28, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    UAFA is going to be very very confusing after DOMA is struck down, because it will be perceived as giving green card rights to couples who choose not to marry, but merely want to be "permanent partners." This will be construed by anti-UAFA reps as giving special rights. Which in fact in this instance it may be doing. This taps in to Senator Feinstein's concerns about UAFA – which her senior staffer told me about back in 2010. That there is no "legal nexus" between "permanent partners". Now while that may be worth working out in UAFA if there are no alternatives for binational same-sex couples – the minute DOMA dies, there will be an alternative for binational ss couples. This Lobby event and the perceived desperation to attach UAFA would have ben relevant in 2009-2011 until DOMA started to fall. Now this lobby for inclusion is nothing but a press stunt fund raiser for Immigration Equality.

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National

Non-binary person reports assault by Proud Boys near Portland

‘They nearly killed me’

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Juniper Simonis (Photo by Mariah Harris)

It was a typical day for Juniper Simonis. The freelance ecologist decided to break from work for lunch at about 3 p.m. to take their service dog, Wallace, to the local dog park and grab a bite to eat.  

But a planned peaceful afternoon quickly turned ugly. Simonis says they survived a gang assault of about 30 perpetrators in Gresham, Ore., a suburb outside of Portland. The Oregon resident encountered the group for only minutes but suffered a concussion, sprained jaw, extensive car damage and verbal assaults, they said. 

“They nearly killed me,” they said.

Simonis said they turned into a parking lot to pick up lunch in Gresham, Ore., and stumbled upon a rally that included several members of the Proud Boys — a far-right, ultra-nationalist organization known for its anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminism and neo-fascist ideologies. 

There was a “Flag Ride” right-wing rally in a parking lot earlier that day. Simonis was under the impression the event had ended after checking reports on Twitter. After pulling into the lot, originally to look for lunch options, Simonis saw a large gathering still in the lot. 

Simonis decided to take pictures of what was happening to post online to warn others and was intentional in keeping their distance, they said. As Simonis was preparing to leave the area, they yelled from inside the car, “Fuck you, fascists, go home.” 

“I did not expect this to escalate into violence,” they said. 

The attack itself only lasted about three minutes, Simonis said. Simonis was quickly surrounded by several people and physically blocked from leaving the lot. People stepped in front of the parking lot exit, then a car was moved to barricade Simonis. People began to shout homophobic slurs at Simonis, they said. 

“I’m in serious trouble now and I know it,” they said. 

Simonis was then punched while inside their vehicle and was briefly knocked out. They regained consciousness a few seconds later, and a cinder block was thrown at the car and shattered the back window of their car inches away from their service dog, Wallace. 

Simonis got out of the car to assess the damage and make sure their service dog was safe. They quickly got back in their car and was able to leave the lot by maneuvering around the blocked exit, Simonis said. 

Wallace, Juniper Simonis’ service dog. (Photo by Mariah Harris)

Looking back at the photos and videos Simonis took before the assault, Simonis said they saw people looking into the camera and acknowledging them taking photos. 

“I honestly don’t know if I hadn’t said anything, that … things would have gone any different,” they said. 

Last year, Simonis was targeted and arrested by federal police in Portland during the tumultuous Black Lives Matter protests in the city. They were denied medical attention, misgendered, jumped and aggressively handcuffed while taken into custody. 

Simonis is still working through legal proceedings in a multi-plaintiff lawsuit. 

A witness to the event called the Gresham Police Department, which was only a few blocks away from the incident. But the call went to voicemail and the witness did not leave a message, Simonis said. 

Another witness called 911, Simonis said, which led to an officer calling Simonis about 45 minutes after the accident to take a report.   

In the police report obtained by the Blade, Simonis is consistently misgendered. Simonis’ sex is also listed as “unknown” in the report. The incident was labeled as vehicle vandalism. 

Simonis said the conversation with the officer was filled with victim-blaming and the officer wrote in the report that Simonis should avoid “approaching groups of this nature.”  

“At no point in this conversation does he treat me as an actual victim of a crime,” Simonis said.

The Gresham Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. 

Weeks after the assault, Simonis is struggling mentally and physically, they said. 

The concussion makes working on a computer virtually impossible because of light sensitivity and trouble focusing, Simonis said. The pain caused by the sprained jaw makes it difficult to focus, as well. 

Simonis is not able to begin physical therapy for their jaw until November because of long medical wait times, they said. The cost to repair the car damages will be about $8,000, as well, they said.  

The times where Simonis is able to focus are usually taken up by piecing together what happened that day, they said. 

“The part of my brain that I use for work has been hijacked functionally by the part of the brain that needed to know what happened to me,” they said. “There is such a painful need to understand what happened to me.”

Because of past traumatic events, like the experience of being in federal custody last year, Simonis said processing and living with the trauma is a bit easier to handle. But their ability to work will be forever changed yet again, they said. 

“I’m not able to work at the pace that I used to work at before I was assaulted by DHS. I’ll never be,” they said. “And this is just a further knockdown.” 

The trauma of the event has increased Simonis’ hyper-vigilance, as well. 

“Every time I hear a car go by, I’m double-checking,” they said. 

Even though Simonis has the tools to process and live with the immense trauma, they will never be the same person, they said. 

“They fucking changed my life forever. Point blank,” they said. “Not just mentally, but physically and physiologically. I can’t go back to where I was before. I’m lucky that I survived.”

Simonis has reported the attack to the FBI and is pursuing legal action with two specific goals in mind: to heal and to prevent similar crimes from happening.

“I am somebody who believes in abolishing the carceral system and the justice system as it exists and policing,” Simonis said. “But also a 37-year-old trans and disabled person who somehow managed to survive this long. And so naturally has become pragmatic about the world.”

Because of the reaction of the Gresham Police Department, Simonis did not want to work with local officers and instead went to the federal level. But because of the alleged assault by agents in Portland last year, this decision wasn’t easy for them.

Perpetrators in the assault threatened to call the police on Simonis,  even though Simonis did not commit a crime. Reporting the crime to the federal level is also a layer of protection, they said. 

“All of this is forcing my hand,” they said. There is no easy decision in the situation, they added. 

“We all know that crimes are underreported. We hear about it all the time,” they said. And there are reasons why people don’t report crimes and they’re totally understandable. A lot of victims are very concerned about what will happen if they break anonymity. In my situation, I’ve already broken anonymity.”

With recent arrests and crackdowns on the Proud Boys and other hate groups in the United States, Simonis is bracing for a long process. 

“This isn’t just going to go on a shelf,” they said. 

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$2 million grant program to help LGBTQ restaurants, bars

Grubhub, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce to support small businesses

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NGLCC, gay news, Washington Blade
Chance E. Mitchell and Justin G. Nelson of NGLCC announced the new grant program for restaurants and bars. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the global online food delivery company Grubhub announced on Sept. 22 that they have launched a $2 million grant program to provide financial support to struggling “LGBTQ+ owned and ally restaurants” adversely impacted by the COVID pandemic.

“America’s vulnerable LGBTQ+ owned restaurants and bars serving food will find a vital lifeline this fall stemming from the partnership formed by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) and Grubhub,” according to a joint statement they released. 

“These small business owners have been among the hardest hit by COVID impact with loss of jobs and income over the past two years,” the statement says.

It says the newly launched Community Impact Grant Program is inviting restaurants and bars that qualify for the program to submit applications for grants up until Oct. 12, 2021, the closing date for the applications. The grants are expected to range from $5,000 to $100,000, the statement says, with NGLCC and its more than 50 affiliated LGBT chambers across the country playing the lead role in selecting which restaurants or bars are awarded the grants.

In a separate statement in response to a question from the Washington Blade, NGLCC said an LGBTQ-owned establishment such as a gay bar would be eligible to apply for a grant under the program if they offer a menu for serving food.

“They do not need to be licensed as a restaurant specifically to be eligible for consideration,” NGLCC said.

Among the D.C. gay bars that would fall into that eligibility category are Pitchers and its attached lesbian bar A League of Her Own, Uproar, and Nellie’s Sports Bar. Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. would also be eligible.

In the same follow-up statement to the Blade, NGLCC said it will determine whether an applicant qualifies for a grant as an LGBTQ ally by evaluating “the restaurant’s clientele, reach, track record of support, and public benefit.”

The statement adds, “In our application online, we ask allies to share evidence of their LGBTQ+ community support such as nonprofit sponsorships or advertising in local LGBTQ+ media, among others. We know that our allies are an important foundation standing by their LGBTQ+ patrons, neighbors, and friends.”

The statement announcing the launching of the LGBTQ grant program says the funds for the grants will come from a charitable program Grubhub started in 2018 called Grubhub’s Donate the Change program. It says the program asks customers receiving food delivered by Grubhub to “round out their order total and donate the difference,” with Grubhub matching eligible donations from its Grubhub+ members.

It says NGLCC has set a goal to allocate 30 percent of the funds for the Community Impact Grant Program for LGBTQ-owned and ally-owned restaurants and bars to businesses owned by people of color and transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

“We’re proud to partner with Grubhub offering these grants to support these businesses,” said Justin Nelson, co-founder and president of the NGLCC, who noted that LGBTQ-owned and allied restaurants were among those who “kept our communities and first responders fed throughout the pandemic.”

Added Nelson, “America’s 1.4 million LGBTQ+-owned business owners have shown incredible resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, in turn, we can help them recover stronger than ever.”

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce describes itself as the business voice of the community and “the largest global advocacy organization specifically dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people.”

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Roundup of cities hosting Pride events next month — and those that cancelled

Annapolis, Richmond among postponements in mid-Atlantic

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Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, the Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff at D.C.’s Pride Walk in June. (Screenshot via WJLA 7)

Although organizers are closely watching COVID-19 related developments in their states, at least 15 outdoor, in-person LGBTQ Pride events were scheduled to take place across the U.S. in the fall of 2021, according to the international LGBTQ group InterPride and online announcements by organizers of the Pride events.

Cities in which the fall Pride events are scheduled to take place include D.C.; Fort Lauderdale; Palm Springs, Calif.; Las Vegas; Dover, Del.; and three small cities in Maryland.

The decision to move ahead with those events came shortly after Pride organizers in at least five cities announced they were cancelling their events for this fall due to concern over the COVID pandemic. Among them are Richmond, Va.; Annapolis, Md.; Atlanta; Louisville, Ky.; and San Francisco.

Organizers of a fall Pride event in Philadelphia also cancelled that event, originally set for Sept. 4. But the Philadelphia Gay News reports that the cancellation was not due to COVID but instead was due to objections by members of the community to the policies of the event’s organizers and a controversial public statement by one of the organizers considered by some to be derogatory to transgender people.

A statement announcing the cancellation of a San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Freedom Day Fest scheduled for Oct. 20 by its organizers appears to capture the sentiment of organizers of the other fall Pride events that were also cancelled.

“[W]e’ve determined that to produce a street fair with the safety and health of our communities at top priority, at the quality expected of SF Pride, is just not feasible this fall,” the statement says. “We are not cancelling – we’re merely postponing. Over the coming months, in addition to some new and returning fundraising events, we’re going to focus our energy on Pride 2022,” the statement continues.

“We remain as excited as we ever were to capture that spirit of wonder and look forward to bringing Freedom Day Fest to all of you in October 2022,” it says.

San Francisco Pride organizers noted that the fall Freedom Day Fest event was to be an addition to the city’s regularly scheduled Pride parade and festival that has taken place in June prior to the COVID outbreak but that were cancelled this year and last year. 

The Richmond Pride event, known as Virginia Pridefest, was scheduled to take place Sept. 25. The event, which was also cancelled last year due to COVID, has attracted tens of thousands of participants in previous years. 

“After consulting with our many corporate sponsors, organizational partners and volunteers we have decided it is in the best interest of the health and safety off our community to postpone VA Pridefest 2021,” organizers said in an Aug. 27 statement. “Our preparation puts us on solid footing as we postpone the festival to 2022 when we hope to hold it in June as part of the national observation of LGBTQ Pride Month,” the statement says. “This has long been a goal of ours, and this just may give us that opportunity,” it says.

Although organizers of Annapolis Pride cited COVID concerns as their reason for cancelling that event, which was scheduled for Oct. 30, activists in three smaller Maryland cities have chosen not to cancel their Pride events.

They include the Howard County Pride Festival scheduled for Oct. 9 in Columbia, Md.; the Upper Chesapeake Bay Pride Festival, also set for Oct. 9 in Havre De Grace, Md.; and Southern Maryland Pride scheduled for Oct. 16 in Solomons, Md.

Like D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance, Pride organizers in Baltimore cancelled their traditional June Pride parade and festival for the second year in a row and instead held more than a dozen smaller events in June of this year, both in-person and virtual.

In Los Angeles, Christopher Street West, the group that organizes that city’s Pride events, including its annual Pride Parade which in pre-COVID years has attracted hundreds of thousands of participants, also cancelled this year’s parade for the second year in a row. Like other cities, the group held several virtual Pride events in June.

Los Angeles Blade Publisher Troy Masters organized a Pride Walk in June that attracted a few hundred participants in an effort, Masters said, to hold at least one in-person event to celebrate Pride during the traditional Pride Month in June.

A larger outdoor Pride event did take place in LA Aug. 27-29, called the DTLA Proud Festival, with “DT” referring to downtown LA.

Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes D.C.’s annual Pride parade and street festival that have attracted over 200,000 participants in pre-COVID times, held a scaled back Pride Walk and Pride celebration at D.C.’s Freedom Plaza in June. The group has scheduled an Oct. 17 Pride Street Fair and Block Party on 15th Street, N.W. between P and Q Streets that it’s calling Colorful Fest.

On its website, Capital Pride says those entering the block party, which will be in a fenced in area where alcohol will be served, will be required to show proof of COVID vaccination.

“The Capital Pride Alliance is committed to finding opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community to gather together safely, especially as the fall and winter seasons will soon make it more difficult to hold outdoor events and pandemic guidelines will make indoor events challenging,” Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos told the Blade. “To that end, we are working closely with the DC Government and following all current COVID-19 guidelines to have a safe outdoor event,” Bos said.

The Louisville, Ky., Pride, which had been scheduled for Sept. 18, is among the Pride events cancelled this fall due to COVID concerns, according to its organizers. But a second Pride event held in Louisville each year called Kentuckiana Pride, will take place as planned on Oct. 8-9 with a parade and festival. 

Chad Eddings, the Kentuckiana Pride co-director, told the Blade the event would take place in an enclosed outdoor area and participants must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test as a requirement for admission. He said the event usually draws about 15,000 people.

Cities in which fall Pride events are still scheduled to take place or have already taken place include Burlington, Vt. (Sept. 5); Miami Beach, Fla. (Sept. 18-19); Columbus, Ind. (Sept. 18); North Texas Pride Festival in Plano, Tex. (Sept. 25); Delaware Pride in Dover (Oct. 2); South Florida Afro Pride Parade & Music Festival in Ft. Lauderdale (Oct. 7-11); Las Vegas Pride Parade & Festival (Oct. 8-9); D.C Pride Street Fair & Block Party (Oct. 17) Pacific Northwest Black Pride in Seattle, Wash. (Oct. 29-31); Phoenix Pride Festival & Parade in Phoenix, Ariz. (Nov. 6-7); Palm Springs, Calif., Pride (Nov. 1-7); and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Pride Parade & Festival (Nov. 20).

InterPride, the LGBTQ organization that keeps track of Pride events “all over the world,” released the results of a survey it conducted of 201 worldwide Pride organizations to find out the type of Pride events they were planning for this year. The findings show that the largest number – 40.8 percent – reported they would be holding both in-person and virtual Pride events.

The findings show that 35.3 percent of the Pride organizations planned just in-person events this year; 19.9 percent planned only online or virtual events; and 4 percent either were not planning any events this year or had canceled their events.

The survey results released by InterPride did not breakdown the findings by specific countries.

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