June is Pride Month throughout the United States and around the world. Every June, thousands flock to Orlando to celebrate Gay Days. This year, however, many are thinking twice before heading to Florida to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
Amid recent laws put into place aimed at preventing talk of sexuality and gender identity with children, many in the Gay community say the laws mean much more. To them, the law represents a security threat. This has made many reconsider going to this year’s event. One potential attendee spoke to NBC News and expressed concern saying, “Everything around it, everything else you have to do to get there, is scary right now.”
Despite the hesitation, the event will still take place. In fact, it is expected to be the most attended Gay Days event ever, with more than ten-thousand people expected to attend. Joseph Clark, the CEO of Gay Days, said that he is confident that the event will be successful. He added that they’ve taken precautions, such as buying out an entire hotel for attendees, to ensure safety which is “[of] extreme importance that our guests are safe, which is one reason that Gay Days bought out the Doubletree as a base hotel for the weekend.”
Amid the uncertainty, people are grappling with whether or not to attend. Clark noted that he has been fielding concerns from people all week. “The feedback has been all over the place,” Clark said. “Guests just don’t know.” Still, despite concern, thousands of people are planning to attend. The Doubletree that has been bought out for the event is completely booked.
Police presence has been increased as well. There will be both visible and undercover police presence throughout the event. A spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has said, “We continue to support the theme parks and other venues in our tourist corridor with off-duty deputies that are scheduled for daily coverage, in addition to our scheduled patrol deputies.” The spokesperson continued, “For large events, there are contingency plans that are visible to the public, and some that are not. We will have deputies in marked and unmarked vehicles, on bicycles, motorcycles, and even horseback when that’s necessary.”
Though Disney does not officially sponsor the event, Walt Disney World has been an integral part of the LGBTQ+ Communities celebration since its inception. Disney has unofficially played host to the event since 1991. Despite not being an official sponsor, Disney has embraced Pride Month with limited time food, merchandise, and photo backdrops. More than ten thousand people will visit the Magic Kingdom on June 3, 2023 in red shirts to promote visibility within the gay community.
The City of Orlando has embraced the event and hopes to continue the event for years to come. Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, said in a statement, “Orlando has always been and will continue to be a diverse, welcoming , and inclusive community. As the top travel destination in the country and longstanding leader in the travel industry, our community has a history of welcoming all to our destination.”