Orlando Killings Forced Boise Pridefest Organizers To Make Last Minute Changes

Jun 17, 2016

LGBT supports outside the Idaho Capitol during the 2015 Pridefest.
Credit Kyle Green, Idaho Statesman

Organizers say after a gunman killed 49 people at a gay bar in Orlando last week, Boise's annual LGBT celebration known as Pridefest could go a couple of different ways. Fewer people might show up this weekend for Pridefest because of fear of anti-gay violence. Or, more people might turn out to show solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Boise Pridefest Director Rodney Busbee thinks it’s going to be the second one. Busbee says if they could accommodate all the individuals and groups that have called this week and asked to march, the festival’s signature parade would more than double in size.

Busbee says organizers didn’t add more people to the parade but they did change the route. And even though volunteers have been working on the annual event since last year’s festival wrapped up, organizers had to make big, last-minute changes this week.

Following consultations with the FBI and police, Busbee says Boise Pridefest is doubling spending on security which is already the biggest item in the budget. And there are other spending increases like doubling the money for portable toilets to $7,500 to accommodate the anticipated crowds. Busbee says the changes will leave the all-volunteer organization with little or no seed money for next year's event.

But one thing that won’t change, he says, is that despite the sorrow the LGBT community feels after the Orlando massacre, this weekend’s Pridefest is still a celebration.

“We will definitely have moments throughout the day where we remember what’s happened, but we definitely want to make sure that this is a fun, festival event,” Busbee says. “That we still get that one weekend where we can all come together and celebrate who we are without judgement.”

But for festival participants the thought that being LGBT can make them a target for violence won’t be far away.  That, Busbee says, is not actually a big change from previous years.

“Living in Idaho, it already kind of felt that way,” Busbee says. “We already live in a state that won’t call things a hate crime when things are done to one of our own. We can’t get the legislators to say that we matter and pass ‘Add the Four Words.” We are already in that thought process every year. [Orlando] just made it even more so.”

Busbee’s examples include a man who was beaten to death in April after being lured to Nampa’s Lake Lowell with the promise of gay sex. So far, authorities have not called it a hate crime. Busbee also references the decade-long effort to get lawmakers to pass discrimination protections for LGBT Idahoans.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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