The NEPA Rainbow Alliance PrideFest has decided to move its major annual event from Wilkes-Barre to Pittston because Pittston has a law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, says Helen Davis, vice chair of the Board of the NEPA Rainbow Alliance and member of the PrideFest Committee.
“Pittston passed a nondiscrimination ordinance in May of 2013 that ensures fair and equal treatment of all individuals,” Davis said in an email. “It is the only municipality in Luzerne County with such protections. Why wouldn’t we move our main event to such a supportive location?” she asked.
The NEPA Rainbow Alliance PrideFest will be held from 2 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15, on the Tomato Festival grounds at 49 S. Main St.
According to Davis, in the state of Pennsylvania, unless a local nondiscrimination ordinance exists, LGBTQ+ individuals can be kicked out of their housing, fired from jobs or denied services.
Rose Randazzo, whose brother Angelo is gay, helped get the equality act passed in Pittston.
“The town was going in a bad direction,” Randazzo said. “We wanted to revitalize the city. We were trying to revitalize our streets, but we weren’t revitalizing our culture.”
Randazzo said she took note from the city of Collingswood, New Jersey, where her brother resides. The city had an equality ordinance to protect all individuals, she said. Randazzo said she was “shocked” to learn every city didn’t protect against discrimination for the LGBTQ+ community.
“We thought that was part and parcel with the law,” she said.
“I went to Mayor Jason Klush and said this is the right thing to do. And he did it,” Randazzo said. “The mayor and council members really stepped up.”
Klush said the decision was easy and pertinent to the development of Pittston. “We all agreed that times have changed and we want to move along with the times,” Klush said. “It was our way of putting in place and showing that Pittston is a welcoming place for everybody. Eventually everybody will come around and agree.”
Wilkes-Barre mayor Tom Leighton said although the city strongly supports the LGBTQ+ community, putting an ordinance that protects sexual orientation and gender identity or expression officially in the city’s books needs to be passed down from the state level to ensure protection. “If the city had that in place, it would not be enforceable,” Leighton said.
Aside from added protection set in place by Pittston, the NEPA Rainbow Alliance hopes the new location will help attract more visitors from Lackawanna county, Davis said. “Pittston is right between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton,” she said. “And the Tomato Festival grounds is more visible to a downtown area than when we had the event at a park.”
Parking is another issue Davis hopes will be a step in the right direction for PrideFest attendees. “At Kirby Park, parking was a nightmare,” Davis said. “Being downtown and more centrally located, there will be more street and municipal parking. It’s our first year, so we don’t know exactly how it will go, but we’re hoping for the best.”
There will also be a parking lot adjacent to festival grounds.