‘Protection of Children’ act passes Florida Senate as state cracks down on ‘sexually explicit’ drag shows

SB-1438 would allow state officials to revoke licenses of offending businesses

Florida State Capitol building

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a 28-12 vote along party lines, the Florida Senate passed a bill on Tuesday aimed at preventing children from attending an “adult live performance.”

SB-1438 — entitled the “Protection of Children” act — was filed in early March by Sen. Clay Yarborough, R-District 4, and it would provide legal consequences for businesses that admit children into “adult live performances.”

According to the text, state officials would be allowed to suspend or revoke the licenses of certain businesses and issue fines if they knowingly allowed children into such events.

The text defines an “adult live performance” as the following:

“Any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience which, in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities as those terms are defined in s. 847.001 (Florida’s obscenity statute), lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts when it:

1. Predominantly appeals to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest;

2. Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community of this state as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for the age of the child present; and

3. Taken as a whole, is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for the age of the child present.”

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Though the bill does not specifically mention drag shows, the issue took hold in Florida following a Christmas drag queen performance in Orlando last year at The Plaza.

Following the performance, state officials announced they would revoke the venue’s liquor license due to the presence of three children at the event. A complaint by state officials shows the show featured performers engaging in “simulated sexual activity,” exposing their buttocks and wearing prosthetic female genitalia.

“Sexually explicit content is not appropriate to display to children, and doing so violates Florida law,” the Department of Business and Professional Regulation wrote in a statement. “DBPR will continue to uphold its responsibility to fairly regulate Florida’s businesses, especially when it comes to protecting the innocence of children.”

Former Florida lawmaker and Equality Florida advocate Carlos Smith spoke with News 6 afterward, saying that the issue was an attempt by Florida’s governor to stir up a “moral panic.”

Smith argued that parents should be allowed to decide for themselves what kind of content is appropriate for their children.

“Ron DeSantis has made such a big deal about parental rights, but what this boils down to is that he only supports parental rights for those that agree with him,” Smith said.

Rep. Randy Fine, R-District 33, filed a similar bill in early March — HB-1423 — that serves as companion legislation to SB-1438. He told News 6 that he considers taking children to such performances as an act of “child abuse.”

“I’m not aware of a lot of female strippers performing for children right now. I’d be interested to know that there are, but what we have is men dressing up like strippers, and somehow the woke left thinks that’s OK.” Fine said. “Is it an attack on the heterosexual community that you can’t take children to a strip club?”

If enacted, SB-1438 would take effect upon becoming law.

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Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.