TAMPA, Fla. — Elizabeth Dugan wears her love proudly. Especially when it comes to her family: her wife, their children, and their two dogs.
"I've always been a very colorful, visible person, and I will never and will not step back and hide my family or feel ashamed to say, you know, oh, yeah, this is my wife. And this is our family. This is who we are," she said.
Pride events feel comfortable and familiar, especially for her young daughter.
Tampa Pride decided to pull the plug on its Pride on the River event, which was initially scheduled for September.
Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1438 into law, limiting drag performances to venues 18 and older.
"We needed the legislature to come in and really, really clarify that if you are an establishment that's having adult performances, you have an obligation to make sure that these young kids are not permitted in the premises, and we're gonna hold you accountable," he said during a bill signing ceremony in Tampa last Wednesday.
Debbie Ducko with Tampa Pride explained why the tough decision was made.
"Pride on the River is held right on the river by the riverwalk. In order to have Drag Queens, we would have had to make it 18 and up. There's no way of blocking it off so that it's only 18 and up people," she said.
She said the drag performances play a big role in their events.
"I don't know about this particular event, but last year's pride, I scheduled between the outside stage and inside stage, and we booked over 85 drag queens, drag kings, and performers for that whole day. So that's including the parade and the headliners at night. That's just local for drag performers," she added.
But that wasn't enough for Dugan.
"I was sitting in the back office and went on my phone and made a Facebook event page like kind of on a whim. Because I was like very heated in the moment, and started putting it out on my Instagram and sharing it to my friends and family. And now it's kind of become this whole thing," said Dugan.
Dugan is hosting the Tampa Proud Pride Walk.
The walk follows the path the Pride on the River was supposed to take.
Dugan said she wants this event to be a family-friendly environment.
"We as a family and our home, you know, we teach inclusiveness, we teach anybody can love anybody. Anybody can be who they want to be. So to be told that we're bad parents for, like, accepting this, and even our family is, you know, not a typical norm. It's sad. It's, it hurts us a little bit. But we're doing everything that we can to be supportive show our love is just as valued as anybody else's love. And also that we are parents, we should be able to make those decisions for our family, what our children learn, what they see. And it should be up to us whether we think that that's something that's appropriate or not," Dugan said.
Dugan is also selling shirts to wear to the Pride Walk.
She worked with Rose James Studio on designing the shirts. Proceeds will be donated to Metro Inclusive Health community and youth LGBTQIA+ services.
She said she wants to make this an annual event. The inaugural pride walk is June 16th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. It starts at Armature Works and ends at Curtis Hixon.