Metro Weekly

Republican Disallowed from Marching in Miami Pride Parade

State Rep. Fabian Basabe, who voted for the 'Don't Say Gay' law, will sue Miami Beach Pride if not allowed to march in its parade.

Florida Republican State Rep. Fabian Basabe – Photo:

Fabian Basabe, a Florida Republican lawmaker who supported the state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is threatening to sue Miami Beach Pride organizers if he is not allowed to participate in its annual parade on April 14.

The state representative claims that organizers’ efforts to ban him from marching in the parade infringe on his First Amendment rights. 

Last year, Basabe rode atop a convertible along the parade route, blowing kisses, waving, and yelling back at protesters who booed and chanted “Shame!” at him. Throughout, he was flanked by police in riot gear.

Seeking to avoid a repeat performance at this year’s parade, organizers have asked Basabe not to attend — worrying that his presence, and the presence of police in riot gear, may fuel violent confrontations.

In a March 16 text message to Basabe, Bruce Horwich, the chairman of Miami Beach Gay Pride, Inc., said he did not know whether Basabe’s registration to ride in the parade had been received, but offered him a refund.

“Last year you had to be surrounded by police officers in riot gear as well as had several more plain clothes officers surrounding your vehicle. We have never had any parade participant that showed up with officers in riot gear. That is not acceptable,” Horwich reportedly wrote in the text message to the lawmaker. “Our bylaws clearly state that we can’t have participants that put themselves or other participants at risk or antagonizes our guests.”

Horwich added that “[t]his is not political. We have had Republicans, Democrats and Independent parties in our parade and festival in the past and welcome all political views unless they are planning or have shown from the past that they are a security risk. I kindly ask that you refrain from participating in any way with Miami Beach Pride this year.”

Basabe is not complying with that request, telling the Miami Herald that “[p]reparations for a suit in federal court are well underway.”

“My civil liberties are not up for debate,” he said of his intention to not only sue Miami Beach Gay Pride, but the city of Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County, which are co-sponsoring the Pride parade.

Kent Harrison Robbins, an attorney for Basabe, wrote to Horwich warning him that excluding Basabe from participating in the parade “would be willfully, knowingly, and intentionally abridging his First Amendment right to free speech and to peaceably assembly on a public street.”

“Legal precedents from the federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have ruled that a concern that there may be physical opposition to [Basabe] is not a legal justification for violating his speech and assembly rights,” Robbins wrote in the letter. “Basabe must be allowed to participate in The Pride Parade and he must be notified immediately through my offices that he will be allowed to do so without any impediments.”

Robbins argued that because city and county jurisdictions are among the sponsors of the parade, it doesn’t constitute a private event that would allow for Basabe’s exclusion. Rather, it is a “demonstration of political speech on the public streets,” and warned of further legal action if Basabe is prevented from participating.

Horwich told the Herald that Basabe is welcome to attend the parade as a spectator, but maintains that Miami Beach Pride has discretion over who can participate.

“My number one priority as chairman is safety at the parade and at the festival,” Horwich said. “The board decides who can be in the parade — which is everybody, as long as you’re not a threat to the spectators and other participants.”

Basabe shared a message with the Herald that he sent to Miami Beach Pride, in which he accused the organization of allowing “extremist” protesters “to agitate the crowds and incite violence against me for political purpose” during last year’s parade.

“You have no right to exclude me, not as an individual nor as an elected official, nor may you attempt to set me up again with a bogus ‘public safety claim,'” Basabe wrote. “I have always attended this parade peacefully.”

Basabe was elected in 2022. He initially campaigned on support for LGBTQ rights and other socially liberal causes like gun control and abortion rights, which helped him win cross-party support in the Democratic-leaning district of Miami Beach.

Though married to a woman since 2005, Basabe introduced himself as a “gay candidate” at a Florida LGBTQ Democratic Caucus conference in 2021 while running for Miami Beach City Commission — a move that enraged some people in the LGBTQ community, who compared him to former U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) and accused him of fabricating his biography.

Since being elected, Basabe has railed against LGBTQ advocacy groups, accusing them of misrepresenting legislation he’s supported, including the so-called “Parental Rights in Education Act,” which critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law due to the way the law — which prohibits classroom instruction on LGBTQ issues — was so vaguely crafted.

Florida state officials recently reached a settlement with some of the law’s opponents, in which the state agreed to provide detailed guidance about what exactly is prohibited under the law as opposed to leaving it open to interpretation.

Nonetheless, Basabe’s record in office has angered many members of the LGBTQ community, some of whom have thrown their support behind former Democratic State Rep. Joe Saunders’s challenge to Basabe.

Other activists have demonstrated outside Basabe’s district office in North Bay Village, accusing him of betraying his LGBTQ constituents and being a puppet of anti-LGBTQ Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

It’s unclear whether, under Florida law, Miami Beach Pride has any legal ground on which to justify barring Basabe from riding or marching in the parade.

But First Amendment expert Thomas Julin told the Herald that the fact that the city and county governments are co-sponsors of the event separates it from an event run solely by a private nonprofit. As such, Julin said, the parade should have no legal standing to exclude participants in the parade based on the content of their speech, except in rare cases where there are “compelling interests.”

Julin added that Miami Beach Pride’s bylaws could also be considered as “infringing on Basabe’s First Amendment rights if it is being applied to exclude him merely because his speech antagonizes observers of the parade or other participants in the parade.”

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