By Mike Lednovich
Fernandina Beach Pride has quickly pivoted, replacing bingo with various games for this Friday’s Drag Queen Bingo event, after Citizens Defending Freedom successfully won its bingo objection on legal grounds.
Pride is holding the event, which is a fundraiser for college scholarships, at the Fernandina Beach Golf Course clubhouse.
CDF Executive Director Jack Knocke objected to the bingo event in emails to city officials, citing the lack of a required ordinance in place authorizing the bingo game. After researching Knocke’s assertion, City Attorney Tammi Bach agreed. It’s unclear whether CDF will object to other planned bingo events at city facilities. Knocke did not respond to requests for comment.
After the city’s ruling, Pride President Genece Minshew issued the following press release:
“Fernandina Beach Pride regularly holds events with a triple mission: serving up fun and entertainment for the community, enhancing LGBTQ awareness and – most important – raising much needed funds for scholarship and sponsorship programs, ours and others.
“Success reaching all three goals has been remarkable. One of our most popular events has been Drag Queen Bingo, we hosted to sold out crowds at the City Golf Course Clubhouse in 2021 and a local hotel in 2022. No issues. No concerns from the community.
“Today, much national and state focus is being placed on all activities supported by the LGBTQ community and our allies. That focus has now put Fernandina Beach Pride in the spotlight; all our activities are being challenged by a local ultra right-wing fringe organization. This group tried to stop our parade and festival scheduled for June 10. They failed. Their next move was to: stop us from fundraising via this year’s Drag Queen Bingo at the City Golf Course Clubhouse.
“In order to maintain our commitment to scholarship funds and the success of the city-owned venue, we will be hosting a No Bingo evening of fun and games at the City Golf Course Clubhouse on Friday, May 19 at 7 p.m.
“As with our previous Drag Queen Bingo events, this one is also sold out. While we will not be calling out numbers, we will be having great fun enjoying the evening with spectacular drag queens plus good food and drink, all in the company of our many friends and supporters from here in Fernandina Beach and Nassau County.”
Knocke and CDF previously tried to block the June 10 Pride Parade and Festival at Central Park. They were unsuccessful. Knocke has stated that CDF is not anti-gay, but CDF objects to the use of city facilities for LGBTQ+ events.