Nampa mayor says Pride Festival ‘does not reflect’ her beliefs, but city must allow it

Canyon County is set to host its first Pride Festival next month, but threatening Facebook comments from people who oppose the celebration of LGBTQ+ pride and concerns emailed and called into the Nampa mayor’s office have cast a shadow over the event.

“It’s unfortunate that we just want to have a day to hang out in a park and be seen and celebrate nationally recognized LGBTQ Pride Month,” said Tom Wheeler, Canyon County Pride Festival organizer, by phone. “We also know that in places like Canyon County, this is a first, but it’s 2024 and unfortunately, we’re seeing similar sentiment around particular issues as we did in the summer of 1969, back when Stonewall happened in Greenwich Village in New York.”

In the Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969, at a gay bar in Manhattan, police raided a bar, and LGBTQ people fought back.

The Canyon County Pride Festival is scheduled for Sunday, June 9, at Lakeview Park in Nampa. In a news release, the city clarified the process of renting a public park in city limits in response to concerns it received from residents who asked them to cancel Canyon Pride.

“While this event does not reflect the personal beliefs and convictions of myself, the Nampa City Council, and many living in Nampa who have already reached out to us requesting it be canceled, the advice of our legal counsel was that the city of Nampa must recognize the protected First Amendment rights of those scheduling and involved in this event,” Mayor Debbie Kling said in the release.

Amy Bowman, spokesperson for the city, said Nampa’s response was triggered by the over 2,500 comments on a Facebook post by KTVB about the celebration. Many commenters opposed the event, calling for a counterprotest and cancellation.

Bowman also said the Nampa council members received calls and emails asking them to cancel the event. The city did not immediately provide copies of the emails requested by the Idaho Statesman.

“This needs a strong counter protest and then the passing of more legislation that limits these events and ‘visibility.’ We can reject this Idaho!” one commenter said.

“Celebrating wrongdoing and pride is sad and wrong,” another said.

Wheeler told the Statesman that he had expected pushback from Canyon County residents and said the negative response shows why an event like Canyon Pride is important.

“We were very aware, when we had the idea to show up for the community in Canyon County, that it would not be a cakewalk,” said Wheeler, a real estate agent in Boise. “We feel that even the amount of traction and conversation that’s been had in the last few days has been a win in itself in regards to increased awareness of LGBTQ people in Canyon County and in rural areas in Idaho.”

Wheeler said he is inspired by positive comments he has read and heard.

“It is for those 48,000 (LGBTQ+) people who are in this state and in areas that aren’t as friendly to their existence who are the real reason for the work,” Wheeler said. “We do have a First Amendment right to come out and celebrate the month, and we are hoping and crossing our fingers that it’s going to be a peaceful day. And our No. 1 priority is peace and safety.”

The Canyon Pride organization, headed by Wheeler, is funding the Pride festival through donations from GoFundMe at He said organizers plan to set up a 6-foot fence around the perimeter of the event and encourage any counterprotesters to demonstrate behind the fence. Wheeler also said the organizers have been working closely with Nampa police, who will be at the festival.

Pride Month is celebrated in the U.S. in June, though Boise celebrates it in September.

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