Ortonville Denies Abigail's Pride Permit for a Second Time, Shocking No One

Community members packed monthly meeting to support 18-year-old LGBTQ+ activist

Sarah Bricker Hunt

Ortonville, located in northern Oakland County, is somehow not a fictional place from a long-lost Dr. Seuss book, filled with Grinchy Whos and a bubbling undercurrent of homophobia, though we wish this was a story pulled from the land of make-believe. Instead, it’s a place where community members packed the March 25 village council meeting in response to the recent denial of a Pride festival permit. Most were there to support 18-year-old Abigail Rowe and the annual Pride event she started planning at the age of 14 as a show of support for kids like her, who have felt alone and unwelcomed in this conservative pocket of Southeast Michigan. 

In news that is shocking to, well, no one, the Ortonville Village Council has once again denied the permit for the third annual Abigail’s Pride event with a 4-2 vote. The Council had voted in February to deny the nonprofit’s original application, citing safety concerns and the impact of road closures on local businesses and upheld that decision with a new vote on March 25. 

At the meeting, the council allowed one hour for comments from the packed crowd of attendees who overwhelmingly spoke in support of an Abigail’s Pride event in the small downtown corridor. The event has been held in 2022 and 2023 with no reported incidents.

Ahead of the meeting, community members and far-flung supporters contacted Abigail’s Pride and the Ortonville Village Council in support of the festival, including Affirmations in Ferndale and the Michigan LGBTQ+ Commission, which issued a public letter:

Dear Ortonville Village Manager and Village Council, 

The Michigan LGBTQ+ Commission is writing to express our sincere support for Abigail's Pride and their annual pride festival in Ortonville. We find it disheartening to learn of the Village Council's decision to deny the permit for this important event, especially considering its profound significance to the LGBTQ+ community and the positive economic impact it has brought to the town in previous years. 

Under the dedicated leadership of Abigail Rowe, Abigail's Pride has tirelessly worked to cultivate a safe and inclusive space for individuals of all ages, particularly youth, within the LGBTQ+ community. The festival serves not only as a celebration of diversity but also as a beacon of acceptance and belonging for everyone in Ortonville. 

The festival has undeniably become an integral part of the community fabric, fostering unity and promoting understanding and respect among its residents. The vibrant display of rainbow colors and open expression of identities at the festival speak volumes about the profound impact of such events in fostering a more inclusive society. 

While we acknowledge the valid concerns raised by the Village Council regarding safety, road closures, and local business impact, it's imperative to note that Abigail's Pride has a commendable track record of organizing successful and well-managed events. Furthermore, the denial of the permit appears disproportionate, especially when compared to the approval of similar events with longer road closures. 

The Michigan LGBTQ+ Commission urges the Village Council to reconsider its decision and collaborate with Abigail's Pride to address any concerns or logistical challenges. By supporting the pride festival, Ortonville has a unique opportunity to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and the well-being of all its residents. 

We, the LGBTQ+ Commission, stand firmly with Abigail's Pride and the LGBTQ+ community in Ortonville, and we fervently hope that together, we can ensure the continued success and prosperity of the pride festival for many years to come. 


Raúl Hernández-Guzmán, LGBTQ+ Commission Administrative Chair, Office of Global Michigan 

While the council had stated a concern about the potential impact of road closures on local business, one local small business owner said, “During Abigail's Pride… I have my documentation with me. My sales were 466% higher on Abigail's Pride than on any given Saturday the entire year.” On the flip side, another commenter claimed that local businesses face a “really bad situation” when they are confronted and “asked to make a public opinion.” 

Rowe has been adamant that her organization was unwilling to compromise on road closures. “It’s a safety concern,” she told Pride Source in March. “I can’t hold the event in good conscience without having the roads close for the safety of our vendors, volunteers and everyone attending the event.” 

After the vote, Abigail’s Pride posted to Facebook, “We are saddened (but not surprised) to announce the village council denied our permit 4 to 2. Have no fear we have been working tirelessly behind the scenes working on our back up plan. More information soon.”

Facebook user Mark Heil commented on the post, “Screw the permit, turn it into a real protest march!” Alex Guo, another Facebook user, wrote, “I’m disgusted but not surprised by this council… Thank you for all that you all are doing. Sending you lots of love! Know that you have a huge community here to support you all no matter what.” 

Update: Abigail's Pride has announced a plan to move the festival from downtown Ortonville to the nearby Brandon Township Community Park (1414 N Hadley Road) on June 1 from 4-8 p.m.