Gay Days goes on in Orlando despite so-called anti-LGBTQ sentiments, laws

Celebration started in 1991

ORLANDO, Fla. – What started out as a get-together for a group of friends at Walt Disney World is now one of Orlando’s most iconic multi-day events.

Gay Days has been around for more than 30 years, entertaining the LGBTQ+ community. However, event organizers told News 6 changes had to be made due to laws recently passed in Florida that impact the LGBTQ+ community.

Despite legislation, Joseph Clark, CEO and co-founder of Gay Days Inc., they’re not going anywhere.

“We’re not stopping. We’re not stopping based on what’s done in Tallahassee,” Clark said. “Guests who are attending right now, they know what’s going in Florida, they know the risk that we’re taking. This year more so it was just being cognizant and ensuring that none of our drag queens and performers took it to a different level.”

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Clark said the show didn’t stop even if it meant risking getting sanctioned by the state in the wake of several new laws seen as going against the LGBTQ+ community.

“We’ve consulted with a few different organizations about stuff to ensure that we’re on the right path,” Clark said. “Our drag queens still keep it appropriate. They have fun without taking it to that, what would be now considered now as lewd behavior.”

Since 1991, the Gay Days celebration has been part of Central Florida — welcoming hundreds of thousands of local and out-of-state visitors.

The four-day event includes pool parties, bingo nights and drag queen performances.

“It’s a great event. It’s a celebration,” said Adam Rote, an award-winning artist from Daytona Beach. For Rote, Gay Days is about recognizing the obstacles the LGBTQ+ community has overcome.

“I remember coming out in 1981-82 and people used to wait outside bars to go at us. They never had to worry about that they never had to worry about being the one to come out of the closet or say what you really loved or did, so yeah, we celebrate some of the small advantages we’ve had to just be us,” Rote said.

Adding to the charged environment this year, Gay Days is taking place amid an ongoing battle between Disney and Gov. Ron DeSantis, after Disney criticized a law that banned gender expression or identity discussion in classes.

“We come together, we unite, we are very resilient and resistant, and we’ve always walked for our rights, and this is just one more opportunity for us to do so,” said Tatiana Quiroga, executive director of Orlando Pride.

Despite recent laws adopted statewide, Quiroga said October’s Pride festival in the City Beautiful will go on.

“We have been and plan to be always a family-friendly event while at the same time standing in solidarity with the drag community, because we know that drag is really the cornerstone of our culture and our movement,” Quiroga said. “The city of Orlando has been and will always be a welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community. If folks are hesitant, at least come to Orlando where you know that you will be welcomed.”

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