Town wins fight to host Pride festival after calls for its axing

Businesses, locals and those in the tourism have defeated a 'misguided' motion to have Orange's Rainbow Festival cancelled.

Orange City Councillors have voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the town's Pride festival later this month after a motion was brought forward to cancel it in February.

Organisers say the event is set to draw travellers from all over the state, substantially boost the local economy and tourism sector and is something local businesses in particular had excitedly been looking forward to.

The Rainbow Festival is aimed at "fostering inclusion, acceptance and unity with the community" and has been described as a miniature version of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, but according to Councillor Kevin Duffy, who opposed the festival, Orange shouldn't "be responsible for gender and sexuality".

Duffy's motion was voted down 10-2, as the city's LGBTIQ+ community and supporters filled the jam-packed council chambers. The festival will run from March 22.

Councillor David Mallard, NSW Police and members of the the local Orange community promoting the Rainbow Festival.
Businesses, the tourism sector and the community at large have been looking forward to Orange's Rainbow Festival, a local councillor has said. Source: Facebook

Orange rallies to save Rainbow Festival

Earlier speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Councillor David Mallard, who was in favour of hosting the event, said those calling for it to be scrapped held a "misguided" view of what it's all about.

He said given the festival was the recipient of a $125,000 grant from the state government, should it be shut down, taxpayers would've been forced to pick up the pieces.

"It's just so impressive the amount of work people have done to try and beat this motion, to keep the festival going," Mallard told Yahoo News on Tuesday. "We're now seeing a real groundswell of support, and that includes the business community, the tourism industry, the mental health sector — we've got stakeholders from all of these areas getting in touch saying it would be absolutely the worst thing to cancel it both for the local LGBTQIA+ community and for Orange's reputation.

"We have already engaged the entertainers and the other service providers for the event, if it wasn't to go ahead, then we're still going to have to wear those costs."

Calls to axe event came from vocal minority, councillor says

Mallard said the community in Orange has worked hard for its progressive reputation and that LGBTQ+ people from all over the state flock to the area to live, due to that fact. "As we've become a more progressive and an inclusive city, it's become a more visible community," he said.

"I've been emailed by people who were born and raised in Orange, they moved away because they were gay or trans and they didn't feel comfortable here, [they] felt they would be more comfortable in a large city.

A photo of Orange in the NSW Central Tablelands.
Orange has been progressing its reputation among the LGBTQ+ community.

"They've now moved back later in their lives and they've seen that it's a welcoming city, and frankly, we're better than this motion to cancel the festival."

The campaign to scrap the event is "unfortunately very misguided" and "based on a lot of misinformation", Mallard said before the vote went to council. "They're basically arguing that these sorts of events — which are actually designed to promote inclusion, acceptance and get understanding of diversity — are dangerous, and that's completely wrong."

'Damaging' campaign causing harm to LGBTQ+ community

Mallard alleges that those against the festival have been planting malicious and "damaging" flyers in people's letterboxes.

Mallard earlier asked the Australian public not to "judge Orange by the fact that this motion has been brought up." A petition to keep the festival attracted over 4000 signatures. A petition to have it axed had about 300 signatures.

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