FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Over the past couple weeks, Arkansas has gotten national attention for passing several laws regarding the trans community. The Northwest Arkansas Pride director said after a virtual 2020 parade, it’s important to bring back an in-person option this year. Fayetteville health officials discussed how to do so.
“We’re going to do the parade and a few other hybrid events,” said Richard Gathright, the NWA Pride director. “Before pride is anything else, it’s a protest.”
Arkansas’ legislature passed three bills this session that garnered national attention. One banned trans girls from competing in women’s sports. Another allowed medical professionals to deny non-emergency healthcare based on moral or religious beliefs, and the third bill prevented parents from getting gender-affirming healthcare for minors.
Gathright said the 2021 parade should provide a safe zone for trans community members to celebrate life with others who support and love them.
“We’re not a quiet voice,” Gathright said, talking about the LGBTQ community’s response. “We’re not going away.”
Last year, at the heart of the pandemic, the Pride Parade was given the virtual treatment.
“It’s a lot different watching things through a screen than it is being there live in person,” Gathright said.
The Fayetteville Board of Health discussed Wednesday how to allow the city to adequately host a safe in-person parade in late June. Mandatory masking, blocked-off spaces for families and a longer route to accommodate more spectating spots were all discussed.
“I’m more worried about the spectators than the participants in the parade,” said Dr. Gary Berner, who’s on the board and serves as Community Clinic’s Chief Medical Officer.
Berner suggested using sidewalk chalk to block off “family pods” where people can stand as the parade goes by on Dickson. He said masking is still of concern, but the outdoor setting should help.
Dr. Hershey Garner is also on the board, and he said the occasion could serve another important purpose.
“It might be interesting if we get 8, 10-thousand people down there to have a little vaccination clinic,” Garner said.
Gathright said the plan is to parade down Dickson St. on June 26.
“This year, the LGBTQ community needs a solid protest against what’s been happening in Little Rock,” Gathright said.
Gathright said there won’t be any sanctioned pre-parade or post-parade festivities. The focus will be on making the parade happen.