Metro Weekly

VIDEO: Ad Touts Fort Lauderdale As “Welcoming Everyone”

Tourism ad drops amid attacks on the LGBTQ community and the Walt Disney Company for opposing Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill

Visit Lauderdale’s tourism ad – Photo: Visit Lauderdale, via YouTube.

Visit Lauderdale, the tourism marketing organization for the Greater Fort Lauderdale area and Broward County, has launched a new campaign touting the South Florida metropolitan area as “welcoming everyone with open minds and open hearts.”

The online advertisement, distributed on social media as part of the “We Are” campaign, features a diverse cast of people, including same-sex couples, a person with a prosthetic leg paddle-boarding, and people from various racial and cultural backgrounds.

“We are from 170 countries, speaking 147 languages,” captions in the ad read. “We are different. Yet similar. We are respectful of everyone. We are champions of diversity. We are advocates of change…. We are gay. We are truth. We are hope. We are pride. We are Greater Fort Lauderdale. And we are welcoming everyone under the sun.”

The campaign was launched to attract people to the Greater Fort Lauderdale area at a time when Florida is seen by many — especially on the Left — as hostile to diversity and specifically LGBTQ rights.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a piece of legislation, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, into law that prohibits discussions of LGBTQ content in kindergarten through third grade, and in older grades, when not “age-appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate.”

Critics say the law, in being enforced, will only lead teachers, principals, and superintendents to preemptively censor and discriminate against LGBTQ youth, potentially trampling on their constitutional rights.

At least two high school students who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the bill, which goes into effect on July 1, have said teachers have preemptively tried to censor them from speaking openly about their identity.

Additionally, a third high schooler says he was “investigated” and moved to another class after giving a presentation on the Stonewall Riots to his history class as part of a study of political movements in the 1960s and 1970s.

DeSantis and Republican lawmakers have also attacked The Walt Disney Company for opposing the bill, even going so far as to revoke special status granted to the company in 1967 that allows it to operate its own government on its properties throughout the state, including the land where Walt Disney World Resort sits.

The loss of that special status will put the resort under the jurisdiction of Orange and Osceola counties, which will have to increase taxes on residents in order to foot the bill for government services that Walt Disney World will consume. 

Despite DeSantis’ retaliatory actions, and the hit that Florida’s reputation has taken in light of the political situation in the state, Visit Lauderdale is hoping to distance the Greater Fort Lauderdale area — which already has a high percentage of LGBTQ adults and same-sex couples — from the state’s more controversial policies.

“This isn’t new to us,” Stacy Ritter, the president and CEO of Visit Lauderdale, said of Broward County’s efforts to market itself as an inclusive place. “We’ve been marketing and promoting the diversity of this destination for 30 years.”

She added, “Visitors to Greater Fort Lauderdale can be assured they are in a place where diversity, inclusion and acceptance is actively championed as an established way of life that is fully ingrained throughout our community. The Visit Lauderdale slogan, ‘Everyone Under the Sun,’ reflects the open and welcoming nature of our community, and when we say, ‘Everyone Under the Sun’, we mean it.”

Ritter says that Visit Lauderdale was prompted to make the advertisement after the American Society of Association Executives expressed concerns over Florida’s lack of inclusivity.

“While they weren’t calling for a boycott of Florida, with respect to groups conventions and conferences, they were concerned about the lack of embracing diversity and inclusion,” Ritter told Palm Beach-based NBC affiliate WPTV, noting that some groups have already canceled conferences or trips to the Greater Fort Lauderdale area in protest of the legislature’s actions. 

According to WPTV, Palm Beach County has also taken its efforts to distance itself from the actions of politicians in Tallahassee, including putting Pride-themed or rainbow colors on a county bus and touting itself as welcoming to visitors from all walks of life.

It remains to be seen whether Broward or Palm Beach counties will be targeted for retaliatory action by Republicans in Tallahassee, just as Disney has been. Besides attacking opponents of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, DeSantis has also attacked New York City Mayor Eric Adams for simply launching a billboard campaign touting New York as a great place for Floridians to relocate.

Ritter added that the “We Are” campaign hopes to remind visitors of Broward County’s “community values.”

“[W]hen things happen at the state level that don’t necessarily align with your community’s values, you need to just remind people… that there are lots of people here who are welcoming and want you to come and have a great time no matter who you love, what you look like, or who or what you worship.”

Watch Visit Lauderdale’s latest tourism ad below.

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