ORLANDO, Fla. – This weekend, Orlando will host its annual LGBTQ festival that celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and queer social and self-acceptance.
Orlando is allowing police to participate in its Pride parade, which has a “Unified By Pride” theme this year.
The “Come Out With Pride” festival at Lake Eola, which takes place on Saturday, Oct. 9, will be one of the few places in the nation where Pride participants will see police joining in.
Several LGBTQ groups across the country have banned law enforcement from participating at their events over the last several years.
New York City recently announced they are banning cops from participating in their Pride parade.
The 1969 Stonewall Riots, which happened in NYC, are considered the catalyst for Pride parades around the world.
NYC was the first city to host a Pride march. In the late 1960′s, rising tensions between the gay community and law enforcement prompted several violent riots at the popular NYC gay club, Stonewall Inn.
Orlando Pride organizers said the question of police involvement did not originate here, rather, it was a “tidal wave” of social injustice movements sweeping the country.
Come Out with Pride leader Tatiana Quiroga said their focus is not on what other cities are doing, but on ensuring Orlando’s LGBTQ community is safe.
In order to allow members of the LGBTQ black and transgender communities voices to be heard, Come Out With Pride organizers held a town hall in August.
“It was a very hard conversation, one that the group did not expect to have,” Tatiana told News 6.
They touched on whether police should be allowed in the parade or not.
Members of the transgender community shared their concerns and said they felt “safer” with a police officer present.
Pride leaders told News 6 the Black transgender community are the most vulnerable and experience the most violence and brutality.
“I am thankful to share space with these brave individuals who serve our communities every day. Overcoming race and gender inequalities through intentional relations for the sake of community growth should always be our goal,” said Shea Cutliff, Orlando transgender community leader.
Following 2016′s mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, uniformed police officers have remained visible at the annual gay pride events in Orlando.
Gay community members shared that the presence of law enforcement can bring a feeling of safety and security for them at these events.
Orlando’s Come Out With Pride also provides inclusion for its gay law enforcement officers.
“This decision shows the unique strength of the Central Florida LGBTQ+ Community, both in its ability to overcome challenges and the power of its bonds with its community partners,” the Gay Officers Action League Central Florida said.
Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Orlando Police Department both participate in the annual Pride parades and have created LGBTQ liaison partnership programs within their departments.
The transgender march will take place at Lake Eola on Saturday at 2 p.m., followed by the parade at 4 p.m.
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Orange County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on participating in the event:
“Law enforcement has always been proud to march alongside our LGBTQ+ family and the other groups and businesses that turn out each year to show their support and solidarity. The bond we have built – particularly over the last five years since the Pulse nightclub tragedy – is strong, and an important example for others to follow. At our respective law enforcement agencies, our members and their leaders embrace the LGBTQ+ community, and our LGBTQ+ officers and deputies, as family. We always want to be arm in arm with our family as we celebrate Pride.”