A Wilton Manors Commissioner is raising the alarm that anti-drag show legislation is threatening cities that have events like the city’s annual Stonewall Pride parade and street festival.
The anti-drag bill (SB 1438) teed up for final passage in the Senate originally targeted food and beverage venues for criminal charges — a first-degree misdemeanor — if children were exposed to “adult live performances” with “prosthetic breasts and genitals.” But an amendment added late Tuesday on the Senate floor would also subject city officials to charges if they issue a permit for an event that exposes children to the same thing.
The amendment was adopted without discussion on the Senate floor. The bill, which doesn’t specifically mention drag shows, goes to a final vote in the Senate on Tuesday.
Wilton Manors Commissioner Chris Caputo is condemning the amended legislation, saying it’s an attack on cities that have events like Stonewall Pride, scheduled for June 17 this year, and the monthlong St. Pete Pride in St. Petersburg that kicks off April 30 with the Mx St. Pete Pride Pageant.
“This unjust law is an attack on freedom of expression and will result in the silencing of marginalized voices and further discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals,” he wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post that was also shared on the Wilton Manors page. “This policy directly targets our local community, which has long celebrated such events as a way to honor their identity and diversity.”
Wilton Manors’ Stonewall Pride memorializes the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City that served as a watershed moment for the gay rights movement. Wilton Manors’ pride celebration started in 1999. June is recognized as Pride Month and some cities host flamboyant floats, spectacles, and performances all around.
But Republican Sen. Clay Yarborough said Tuesday that it should be outside the view of children. His bill calls children’s exposure to drag performances “an immediate, serious danger to the public health, safety, or welfare.”
“We have to have repercussions when an entity licensed to do business in our state knowingly exposes children to a lewd live performance,” Yarborough declared in Tuesday’s floor debate.
Wilton Manors’ annual Stonewall Pride parade and street festival is the city’s “signature event,” the city website says. Estimates show it draws between 30,000 to 50,000 celebrants and has a $6 million economic impact.
Caputo said the legislation may also affect “Wicked Manors,” a city-permitted street festival with music, dancing and costume contests. Last year, the Pride Center in the city hosted its ninth annual event.
“We must come together to protect our right to express ourselves freely and oppose this harmful legislation,” Caputo wrote in his Facebook post.
Republican Rep. Randy Fine is sponsoring similar legislation (HB 1423) in the House.