Florida Republican threatens legal action after Miami Beach Pride denies him space in parade

Author: Jacob Ogles

When Florida state Rep. Fabian Basabe participated in Miami Beach Pride last year, protesters greeted the Republican with calls to resign. This year, organizers don’t want him back, but he said he’s got a right to be there.

Basabe said as a publicly-sanctioned event, organizers cannot deny him a place in the parade.

“It is my First Amendment Right to Free Speech and to Peaceably Assemble [and to participate] on a public street. Not being allowed to participate directly violates my Speech and Assembly rights,” Basabe told The Advocate.

“The Pride Parade is sponsored by Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami Beach and that the City and County are delegating police power to effectuate time, place, and manner control over a demonstration of political speech on the public streets, acting under color of law, subject to review under the First Amendment.”

The lawmaker has threatened to sue Miami Beach Pride over his exclusion.

But organizers say they are within their rights not to give the Republican lawmaker a spot in the line-up. (Editor’s note: equalpride, The Advocate‘s parent company is a sponsor of Miami Beach Pride.)

“He insisted on having a spot in the parade and after a careful review of last year’s spectacle the Board of Directors followed the bylaws which are clear that anyone who represents a threat to the safety of parade attendees or the contingents can be removed,” said Patrick Gevas with Miami Beach Pride.

“The footage from last year was quite clear with the protests from local civic groups that followed him through the entire parade route. Expecting the opposition, his car was flanked with officers in riot gear as photos and videos from last year clearly show. In the history of Miami Beach Pride, we have never had such an occurrence wherein the police department had to seize control and move the order of our parade, surround him with riot gear outfitted police officers as well as several plain clothes and uniform officers. The agitation of the crowd by those in attendance with him resulted in an arrest. It was sending the opposite message of what our celebration is all about.”

The protests came after Basabe voted in favor of an expansion of Florida’s controversial “don’t say gay” law. He has since defended that vote, and has also pushed back against accusations by male staffers of creating a sexually charged work environment. A House investigation cleared him of accusations though a civil suit is ongoing.

By some estimates, Basabe represents the highest concentration of LGBTQ votes of any Florida House district. As Florida Republicans overperformed statewide in 2022, he narrowly won an open House seat by 240 votes out of more than 52,000 votes cast.

This year, he faces a challenge from Democrat Joe Saunders, one of the first out lawmakers ever elected to the Florida Legislature.

Gevas expects similar protests to Basabe this year as last.

“As a non-profit who puts on free community programming, Miami Beach Pride has a responsibility to do everything in its ability to create safe spaces for the community at large,” Gevas said. “It’s simply a safety issue. We want to be abundantly clear that it’s not partisan as we’ve had Republicans, Democrats and Independents participate in our parade and festival in the past, and may very well be participating again this year. We have always seen the parade as a chance for all voices to be heard. We’ve always sought to promote inclusivity but not at the potential expense of anyone’s safety. It’s been that way for 16 years.”

But as far as Miami Beach Pride is concerned, Basabe has a right to spectate and that’s it.

“He’s more than welcome to attend the parade as a spectator and join us in Lummus Park after the parade for an amazing day of entertainment and togetherness,” Gevas said. “He is not banned from anything and has simply been asked to refrain from a float this year for his safety and that of everyone attending.”

Basabe said he has every reason to participate.

“There are many reasons and through participation I exhibit my own pride, my own voice and support for our LGBTQIA+ Community: My voice and the results of my hard work has been silenced and censored from a community which I love and support. It is heartbreaking to know that advocacy groups would allow this to happen — people being lied to and suffering right before my eyes,” Basabe told The Advocate.

“I take great pride in the elected public service position which I hold. I take pride in my family, friends, and community which I worked hard to build and sustain. I take pride in the fact that I live in a state and nation where my civil rights are protected and people are allowed to live freely to love as they and their emotions lead them. Critics, as I, have First Amendment rights and although I respect this entirely, I do not condone violent, intentionally harmful nor out of control behavior.”

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Jacob Ogles

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