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40 Years Of Pride In Columbus Marked With Virtual Events Due To COVID-19

Protestors shut down Gay Street as a part of the "Big LGBTQ Dance Party" in downtown Columbus to protest a visit by then-Vice President Mike Pence on June 15, 2018.
Michael Lee
Protestors shut down Gay Street as a part of the "Big LGBTQ Dance Party" in downtown Columbus to protest a visit by then-Vice President Mike Pence on June 15, 2018.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Columbus Pride celebrations, however, for the second year in a row, the Columbus Pride Parade will not happen because of COVID-19. Despite the cancelation of the parade, Stonewall Columbus is planning a full slate of virtual events throughout the month of June.

“It is definitely a challenging time that we find ourselves in, in not being able to gather for a second year in a row in our traditional way,” said Stonewall Columbus Executive Director, Densil Porteous. “But we are really looking forward to the opportunity to still be able to celebrate virtually and lift up and recognize our community.”

Porteous, 40, says it takes months of planning to hold the annual parade and other in-person activities to acknowledge the LGBTQ community. Virtual events like a 5K as well as a bike ride with Pelatonia are replacing the live ventures.

“We have a number of virtual conversations within the community focused on our Trailblazers community, which is 55 and above, and then we have a couple of health and wellness conversations that we’re partnering with Equitas Health Institute to put on,” Porteous said.

In 2017, members of the so-called Black Pride Four blocked the parade route to try to give more voice to LGBTQ people of color. Porteous, who is Black, acknowledges LGBTQ members of color have faced challenges of being recognized.

“I think definitely before our community had not been focused as intently or as intentionally as we could have on our communities of color and I think that opportunity in 2017 has pushed not only us in Columbus but I think across the country to really have a reckoning about how we have not always centralized those who are most in need in our fight and I think that now we begin that work of doing so,” Porteous said.

Recent legislation introduced in Ohio and across the country highlights how far there is to go for acceptance of the LGBTQ community, Porteous said.

“We’ve seen a slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation streaming across the country and I think what we have seen is a predominance of those legislation seem to take aim at our trans population as well as our trans youth and in particular in their relation to their ability to play sports,” Porteous said.

Porteous though is hopeful with the Biden administration’s support positive change will come.

“I think the first and foremost thing is passage of the equality act that will ensure equal protection under the law for all LGBTQ identities,” Porteous said. “I think that would be probably the biggest thing that we can see happen.”

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.