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Naples Pride makes grand return

Celebrating love and helping voice concerns within LGBTQ+ community
Posted at 8:06 AM, Jul 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 05:42:26-04

NAPLES, Fla. — After the Covid-19 pandemic caused a two-year hiatus, Naples Pride returned this weekend.

Much celebration was met with reality that the LGBTQ+ community deals with. Such as the Parental Rights in Education Law, or probably better known as the 'Don't Say Gay' law by critics.

At Cambier Park, Sheila Schutz joined many in celebrating pride's return for a fourth year.

"We’re still here," she says. "We’re here, we’re queer, we’re happy!”

“We want to come out and show that we’re resilient," said Nicki Brock, one of the event organizers. "If we don’t show up and say something then we just go quiet.”

It's about LGBTQ+ community members and allies coming together to give back to the community's pride center.

"So it’s extra exciting because we haven’t had a pride fest since the center opened so it’s a big deal for us,” said Brock.

But mixed with all this celebrating, 'Do Say Gay' signs on Phyllis Andrews' stand from the non-profit Collier Freedom. Speaking to the underlying concern many in this community feel about Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act.

“It’s like we’re back in the 60s or something, when I was young,” said Phyllis Andrews with Collier Freedom. "We're not happy with the 'Don't Say Gay' bill. So, actually, it's 'Do Say Gay.' We’re just trying to raise the awareness of everybody and try to fix things."

As of July 1 now approaching the start of this school year on August 10th, the new Florida law prohibits teaching anything about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

"We're going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum,” said Governor Ron DeSantis at a press conference earlier this year.

While Governor DeSantis shared the view of many supporters this year, Schutz — who's with LGBTQ+ education lobbying group GLSEN of Collier County — worries the new law legalizes discrimination.

"We want them to be who they are and (to be) comfortable," said Schutz. "We don’t do any influencing, we just want to love and protect all school children.”

That comfort is a big reason why so many, like Schutz, say they're here.

"We’re here to stay," she says. "Naples Pride- I think next year will probably be even stronger.”

And to show, in a time of legal uncertainties, they're proud of who they are.