Locals rally to support Orange’s first Pride after backlash

Orange's inaugural Rainbow Festival launched ahead of March 22 event
Locals at the launch of Orange's Rainbow Festival. Image: Supplied

Locals will rally to save the first Pride festival in the city of Orange in regional New South Wales after a homophobic backlash against the event.

Orange’s upcoming Rainbow Festival will run for three days from March 22. Free LGBTQIA+ events planned include a street parade and fair day, to boost visibility and support the region’s queer youth.

The regional city, located 250 km west of Sydney, has tried to put on a Pride event since 2020. But from 2020 to 2022, plans were scrapped because of the pandemic.

Orange City Council received a $125,800 grant from the NSW Government to finally host an inaugural Pride event in 2024.

However, a local group called Orange Christian Alliance have protested against it for weeks. That group has targeted the inclusion of a Drag Storytime event.

Now, local councillor Kevin Duffy has also caused outrage by proposing a motion for Council to axe the entire festival.

“I don’t want any part of it. Council shouldn’t be involved in ideologies,” he told the Central Western Daily.

“If my motion is successful, there won’t be any festival. It will be canned.”

Locals and some of Cr Duffy’s colleagues have spoken out to defend the festival ahead of a council vote on Duffy’s motion at a meeting on Tuesday night (March 5).

Rally planned to support Rainbow Festival

Locals are planning a peaceful rally outside the council meeting to call on them to defend the event.

A petition in support of the festival has received over 4500 signatures.

“The Council must maintain their support for this important event,” petitioner Emily Mann said.

“By doing so they will send a clear message – that Orange stands for inclusivity and acceptance.

“We will peacefully rally outside the [meeting] to show our support for Orange’s LGBTQI+ community and their right to celebrate.”

‘This is not what Orange is’

The opposition to the Rainbow Festival has since led to a surge in registrations for its events.

Meanwhile, a counter-petition against the festival has only attracted 349 signatures.

Petitioner Libby Gee called for the festival to be scrapped because of “the involvement of children, some as young as three.” She claimed the festival doesn’t “align with the values” of Orange and was petitioning for its cancellation to “preserve the character of our city”.

Orange Councillor Melanie McDonnell told the ABC she was “disgusted” by the hateful backlash against the event, including Cr Duffy’s motion.

“I am really worried that this will further damage not only Orange’s reputation but our community itself,” she said.

“This tiny little subsection of our city that pushes hatred and disinformation, that is not what Orange is.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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