Anti-drag show bill passes full Senate, awaits further House action

Bill with criminal penalties for businesses that allow children at drag shows awaits House action.

Blistering Democratic opposition couldn’t stop legislation that criminalizes allowing minors into adult shows with “lewd” content from winning Senate approval.

The Senate legislation, advancing on a 28-12 party-line vote, doesn’t mention “drag shows.” But (SB 1438) that Clay Yarborough, sponsored, is largely aimed at stopping children from attending those shows.

It authorizes state government officials within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to suspend or revoke the liquor license of any establishment that admits minors to a live, adult performance.

Prohibited performances would be those that include “lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts,” meant to appeal to “prurient, shameful, or morbid interests,” and displays that are patently offensive and “without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for the age of the child present.”

A person who admits a child to such a performance, as the bill defines it, would face a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.

The legislation next advances to the House.

Yarborough has explained he wants “kids to be allowed to be kids,” with this law, but Democrats say children are already protected under existing statute from inappropriate material and that this legislation is going to result in more “harm, hurt and hate” against the transgender community.

It’s already happened, Democrats said, many of them citing Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby’s tirade in a House committee Monday labeling transgender individuals as mutants, devils and imps.

“To have a lawmaker say something so vile, and so hurtful and so painful about any group of people … I don’t go for that,” said Sen. Rosalind Osgood, who said she was changing her committee vote that she had cast for the bill in the interest of protecting children.

Yarborough, in his close, condemned Barnaby’s comments, but said the bill is akin to the plastic, electric outlet plugs he puts in to keep his 4-year-old safe.

“I believe it’s harmful for children,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to get my son away from the plug because I didn’t want him to have fun or enjoy himself … but we know the danger there. … We are protecting children who cannot unsee or unexperience things which they are exposed to.”

Critics have said the prohibitions are too vague. Some in committee raised the question of whether it would prohibit children at a Hooters restaurant with scantily clad servers singing “Happy Birthday.” Others have said that even though it doesn’t mention drag shows, it’s going to create an atmosphere that limits freedom of expression and leads to bullying against transgender people.

An amendment added as the full Senate prepped the bill for final Senate passage had one Wilton Manors City Commissioner raising the alarm that city officials who grant permits for the city’s iconic street festivals could be arrested. The city’s annual June pride event and Halloween street festival have involved drag queen performances.

Sen. Tina Polsky slammed the bill as “a waste of time” and the “height of hypocrisy” from a Legislature that has passed numerous bills in the name of “parental rights.”

“Why does a person dressed in a costume of the other sex scare you so much?” she asked rhetorically.

This anti-transgender movement has already resulted in Barnaby’s speech that could result in real harm, Polsky said.

“This bill feeds into that kind of dangerous rhetoric, and it will lead to violence,” the Boca Raton Democrat said. “Here is yet another example of big government going too far to take away our freedom. There’s no other way to describe it.”

No Republican other than Yarborough spoke in favor of the bill during the Senate debate.

Republican Rep. Randy Fine is sponsoring similar legislation (HB 1423) in the House. That bill awaits its second hearing before a House subcommittee.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Billy the Bamboozler McFraud Dog

    April 11, 2023 at 4:47 pm

    Unconstitutional and will be shot down by the DOJ. Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. No one is naked so they can’t do this without being sued. You can’t ban kids at a costume party. Nobody’s banana is flopping out.

  • cassandra

    April 11, 2023 at 5:17 pm

    Kids understand costumes. Nothing new about Halloween, school plays, princess, superhero, makeup, parent’s clothing… Dress up is a normal creative and developmental experience in childhood. Why are creepy Republican men sexualising sparkly dresses and fake eyelashes?

  • Doug Russo

    April 11, 2023 at 5:24 pm

    I took my kids to see what I thought were women dancing, but instead there was a gnarly bulge in the crotch area… salami flopped out mid show. The kids needed therapy. Justice must be done!

  • Todd

    April 11, 2023 at 5:29 pm

    Seriously Doug. You’re the one who needs therapy

    So drag queens are dangerous to children, but guns are not

    Transgendered people are damaged but anti vaxxers who infect other kids are not

    Jesus, Florida, do you LIKE being a source of fascism?

    How many people died from drag queens anyway?

    And if you want to see who’s grooming children for sex, don’t look at drag queens. Look at youth pastors

  • Simon

    April 12, 2023 at 10:17 am

    I’m sure the kids hunkering in darkened classrooms during a mass shooting will really appreciate being shielded from drag queens. You can just see their smiling faces as they march off to yet another active shooter drill, “Well, at least we’re being allowed to be kids!” Later over wings at Hooters, you’ll hear, “Daddy, please take your eyes off our server’s cleavage. I want to tell you how much I appreciate being shielded from prurient, shameful, or morbid interests.”

Comments are closed.


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