Hollywood may not immediately come to mind when people think of gay-friendly cities in South Florida, but that’s changing.
For one, the city’s first-ever Pride event (a street festival) is scheduled to take place Jan. 22. Hollywood has also achieved a perfect 100 score on the latest Human Rights Campaign municipal equality index.
There have been 10 years of HRC indexes thus far — a way to rank cities that support the LGBT community, separate from what state and federal governments are doing (or not doing). Cities are scored on whether there are non-discrimination laws on the books, if there are inclusive health benefits, on how much law enforcement engages with the gay community, and on the attitudes of city leadership, among other markers.
Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale also scored 100 in the 2021 report, while Miami scored an 89. The 100 score for Hollywood is all the more impressive when you consider that the city scored an 83 in 2020, 70 in 2019, and a measly 46 in 2018. It’s one of the most improved scores within a four-year period of any city in the country.
One example that helped Hollywood improve its score: the city recently changed its procurement code and now any contractor bidding for work must have nondiscrimination protections for their employees.
LGBTQ+ Council on the Rise
A big part of the city’s gay-friendly ascension can also be credited to the work of the Hollywood LGBTQ+ Council, which launched in April 2019, and is led by its president, Todd Delmay. Delmay said Hollywood already has a large transgender community and continues to grow its “gay vibe.”
Delmay is currently in the race for Florida’s House District 100 seat, which covers an area from Fort Lauderdale to North Miami. (The primary is Aug. 23.)
“[The Council] caught on fire in many ways,” Delmay said. “Membership is at about 500 and 80% identify as LGBTQ. Sometimes you don’t know where your LGBTQ siblings are until you put something together.”
The Council has kept a steady presence through all the challenges of the pandemic. There have been social events in person and online, town hall meetings, trainings, and a focused effort not only to build connections with area residents, but also with the faith community, business owners and city officials.
Delmay and his husband, Jeff, have already made a name for themselves in Florida’s gay circles. The couple was one of six plaintiffs who sued the state for the right to marry. In January 2015, they became the first gay men to be married in Florida.
‘My Hollywood Pride’
Delmay and the Council have led the charge for Hollywood to host its inaugural Pride event. With so many renowned Pride events in South Florida already, he wanted to make it a bit different.
“It’s really what equality, diversity and inclusion are all about — crafting a Pride with familiar elements — but also complementing it with other things to communicate and educate the public a little more,” Delmay said.
There will be film showings and discussions at Cinema Paradiso — which is about a one-minute walk from where the Pride-street festival runs along Hollywood Boulevard near ArtsPark at Young Circle. The Stonewall National Museum and Archives and the World AIDS Museum are partners in a large display, exhibition and vendor area.
Delmay said he’s particularly excited about Anniversary Park, which bookends the street festival. He said the park would be transformed into a “kids’ zone” with youth ambassadors from SunServe and others helping with art projects and face painting. The younger kids can occupy the park until later in the day when it becomes a space for teenagers, Delmay said.
“We know we don’t have the marketing reach that you really need to fill the streets, so we’ve been very strategic,” Delmay said. “We tell all our partners that this can only happen if they’re helping us get the word out.”
The main stage will feature an eclectic lineup of performers, musicians, drag queens and DJs.
“It’s going to be a fun, festive day. There won’t be a parade this time, but maybe someday,” Delmay said. “For now it’s a street festival with, education, music, fun and families. What it looks like to be LGBTQ has expanded in so many ways so that everyone feels included and welcome.”
For more information on Hollywood Pride, go to myhollywoodpride.com. For more on the Council, go to lgbtqcouncil.com.