Breaking News
More () »

Indy Youth Pride Carnival goes on despite threats of protest

An Indiana lawmaker took to social media recently with questions about the event's sponsorship.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's LGBTQ+ youth celebrated Pride Month Wednesday with an annual Youth Pride Carnival hosted by Indy Pride Inc. and Indiana Youth Group.

Carnival organizers said they received hundreds of messages on social media and several dozen phone calls in the past few weeks from people threatening to disrupt the event.

One lawmaker took to social media recently with questions about the event's sponsorship. Rep. Jim Banks, (R-Indiana), tweeted about it last month, saying, "What the hell is the @INDairport thinking?"

Banks' tweet was in response to another which read, "Two LGBTQ+ groups are hosting a 'Youth Carnival' for Pride month, sponsored by the Indianapolis Airport Authority..."

The IAA is one of the sponsors of Indy Pride Inc. Indiana Youth Group partners with Indy Pride Inc. to host the Youth Pride Carnival.

When asked about his earlier tweet, Banks sent this statement:

"What exactly is going on at this 'carnival' that the Indianapolis Airport Authority doesn't want parents to see?  Any government subsidized organization that sponsors events about sexuality for 12 year old children is abusing Hoosier taxpayers."

Airport Authority officials issued a statement saying they are not hosts for the youth event. The statement went on to say IAA sponsors several community events, including Indy Pride's annual Pride Parade, as part of the Authority's diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and remain committed to "fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace."

This is the fourth year for the youth carnival. Attendees have to be between 12 and 20 years old, pre-register and show an ID at the door. The only adults allowed to attend are IYG staff and volunteers who have undergone background checks.

Separate programming for parents was offered at a nearby church.

"We started it so youth had a safe space to be themselves," said Chris Paulsen, CEO of Indiana Youth Group. "A lot of Pride events are geared toward adults, and we wanted a space where the youth could, one, be themselves and, two, be safe." 

As part of that safety, carnival organizers hung up decorated sheets on the fencing surrounding their building. Hours before the carnival's start, they set up activities like a bounce house and dunk tank, while planning for the possibility of protestors.

"We got a lot of messages that we're going to come and take pictures and spread pictures of the kids having a good time at a carnival, which is obviously an invasion of those kids' privacy," Paulsen said.

"We want to have an event where youth could be safe and feel safe and give them space to be themselves and see adults that are like them that have gone through what they've gone through and made it to the other side," Paulsen said.

Wednesday's carnival comes after the end of a legislative session which saw Indiana lawmakers pass several laws impacting LGBTQ+ youth. 

One law banned doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or hormones to transgender teens, even with their parents' OK.

Another requires teachers to inform at least one parent if their kids ask to use a different name or pronoun at school.

Paulsen believes the amount of pushback against this year's youth carnival is a result of such laws.

"People feel emboldened by the legislation," Paulsen said.

Before You Leave, Check This Out