This weekend in Henderson, organizers will stage the Henderson LGBTQ+ Pride Fest. Pride festivals typically happen in most large cities during the month of June. With more than 300,000 people, Henderson is the second largest city in Nevada.
But several things will be missing from this Pride celebration. For one, there will be no parade in downtown Henderson. For another, the city dropped its sponsorship of the parade.
There are conflicting views between the city and organizers over the definition of “family friendly.”
As noted, the event will happen. The Henderson Equality Center is putting on the festival at the privately-owned Sunset Galleria shopping mall.
Karl Catarata with the Human Rights Campaign said the issue was a “hiccup,” rather than a larger issue in the community.
“Pride is a celebration of many people coming together. And I think that there are different areas of where pride can be celebrated. And pride is able to be shared and sharing our culture and our rich history as well,” he said.
Chris Davin with the Henderson Equality Center, who is hosting this weekend’s event, said they met with the city several times prior to the event.
“All of a sudden,” he said they got a call for a meeting, and in that meeting, they were told their vision of pride wasn’t aligned with the city’s.
Henderson provided the following statement:
The City of Henderson was thrilled to partner with the Henderson Equality Center to host a free, family-friendly event in support of our LGBTQ community. From the very beginning and in our partnership agreement with HEC, the City emphasized the event must be appropriate for all ages
The City established conduct and content rules prohibiting sexually explicit or suggestive materials, simulated sex acts, nudity, and profanity in the parade, festival music, performances, and advertising related to these events.
Every City-sponsored event held on Water Street must meet these same criteria to be appropriate for all ages. However, there were activities being planned and materials slated for distribution that were not suitable for all ages, which ultimately led to City staff making the difficult decision to terminate our partnership for the event. We wish Henderson
Equality Center great success on producing PrideFest in the way they envision at a more suitable location.The City continues to look for ways to celebrate diversity, inclusion and acceptance in the community and we are pleased to announce Henderson Family Equality Day being planned for October 15 , 2022 on Water Street.
Davin said their goal is to host a family-friendly event, but that they were told it needed to be G-rated. He pointed to the city’s recent St. Patrick’s Day event, which included alcohol – something he said Pride couldn’t include. He said they weren’t allowed to have Southern Nevada Health District available to hand out safe sex kits, and if a man took his shirt off, it would be considered partial nudity. He said the rules Henderson gave his organization were not rules in place for other city-involved events.
A memo from the City of Henderson on March 23, in part, says “no intimidation or threats to business owners on Water Street or elsewhere in Henderson, or to be labeled or shunned, or the city’s reputation being tarnished when seeking support.”
Davin said they went business to business to prepare them for the influx of people to the area due to the event, but said no one was threatened.
Robert Fielden, who had his business on Water Street for 10 years, said he’s known Mayor Debra March since she was a planner for Las Vegas: “I know her well enough to know if she signed a proclamation for this endorsing it, that she is certainly a person who supports diversity and equality among all of us.”
He said in his experience Henderson used to be a much more conservative area, but that downtown Henderson is a “special composite,” demographically.
Catarata noted there are several events, and they’re all still planned to go on. Recently, there was a Pride event at Lake Las Vegas, the event this weekend will go on, and the city has plans for October.
‘IT’S A HICCUP. IT SHOULDN’T BE HEARTBURN’
“I think that it’s a hiccup. It shouldn’t be a heartburn,” he said. “I think that this showcases the importance of why we need to come together, the importance of why we really need to change hearts and minds and really do the important work of organizing our community to see and to realize the LGBTQ community as a whole. ”
Ultimately, he said he doesn’t think the “hiccup” reflects badly on the city, which was given a 100 rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s equality index. He said it likely came down to bad communication – it takes baby steps.
This was echoed by Dennis McBride, an author and LGBTQ historian in Nevada. The first Pride event in Southern Nevada was 1983, but the parade wasn’t until 15 years later.
“They could throw us in jail, they could fire us from our jobs. We had to learn to work around that. And we had to learn to be very persuasive. We had to frame our arguments in a way that were going to convince them and not scare them. And as Pride went on and matured along with the city of Las Vegas, 40 years ago was that first Pride,” he said. “It was all that time in between [1983 and 1998] that we made our presence known in various ways politically and socially, and in a non-threateningly way, because, quite frankly, gay people could threaten in those days just by being who we were.”
Now, Derek Washington, chairman of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada, said the city has been “nothing but encouraging.”
“Henderson is not a homophobic place as far as the government goes. And I would be the first to call it out if it were,” he said.