Florida Senate Democrats made their case in opposition to Sen. Clay Yarborough’s Protection of Children (SB 1438) bill, arguing that the measure directly targeted drag shows, which Sen. Lori Berman referred to as a “form of art.”
After a very brief debate in opposition, the Republican supermajority in the Florida Senate passed the measure by 28-12 vote margin.
The Protection of Children bill targets venues with a liquor license that allows children to be present at a “live adult performance.”
Establishments would be a risk of having their liquor license suspended or revoked by the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation if they are found to allow children to be present during a “adult performance” where sexually explicit acts have occurred.
Sen. Tina Polsky (D) argued that Sen. Yarborough’s bill “feeds into that dangerous rhetoric and it will lead to violence.”
“Drag shows are a form of art,” said Sen. Berman, adding that the measure specifically targeted, “
Drag shows drag queens and the LGBT community,” and puts “Targets on the backs off queer Floridians.
Sen. Berman added, “This legislation targets queer artistry. It targets the freedom of expression.”
Berman then went on to compare drag shows to restaurants like Hooter’s, saying that ”it would clearly apply to establishments like Hooter’s, where waitresses are scantly-dressed in a sexually exciting way.”
Berman also said that Republicans were targeting cross-dressing, calling the “queer culture” as “shameful and morbid.”
“Is it only queer culture that you wish to fine, suspend and revoke,” questioned Berman.
Sen. Shevrin Jones (D) said that there was bipartisan support in the Florida Legislature to see to it that children do not have to “sit in any room, or facility where there is lewd and lascivious content within that space."
The legislative measure is still going through the committee process in the House of Representatives.
Once the bill makes it through the House, Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it into law.