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Jacksonville lawmaker gets support for drag show crackdown

 Drag queen Kat Wilderness performs during a Drag Brunch at R House Wynwood in Miami on April 9, 2022.
Daniel A. Varela
Miami Herald
Drag queen Kat Wilderness performs for guests during a Drag Brunch at R House Wynwood in Miami on April 9, 2022.

As the governor's office cracks down drag show performances, a Senate panel approved a bill sponsored by a Jacksonville lawmaker that could revoke the licenses of businesses that admit children to “adult live” performances.

The Republican-dominated Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 on Tuesday to advance the proposal (SB 1438). Under the measure, the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which is part of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, would be able to revoke licenses of lodging or food-service establishments for violations.

“I speak with parents nearly everyday who share their concerns about the increasing prevalence of content across all forms of media that is inappropriate for young children. As a dad of young children, I share these concerns,” said committee Chairman Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican who sponsored the bill.

Opponents argued, in part, that the bill is overly broad.

“Drag has always been a part of our society as an art form that can educate, empower and entertain. This manufactured moral panic about drag shows is about policing culture,” said Rin Alajaji, public policy associate for the LGBTQ-advocacy organization Equality Florida.

The measure comes as state officials have targeted venues that hosted drag shows with children in attendance. For example, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation recently sought to revoke the liquor license of an Orlando theater over a drag show event in December.

Under the bill, state could issue fines of $5,000 for a first violation and $10,000 fines for subsequent violations. While the measure does not specifically use the term “drag,” opponents pointed to targeting drag shows.

“In broad, general terms, an adult live performance is a presentation that depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, or specific sexual activities,” a Senate staff analysis of the bill said.

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, has filed an identical House bill (HB 1423).

News Service of Florida