‘It’s affected everything:’ Pride organizers rethink festivals after passage of Florida bill

SB-1438 would prevent children from attending “sexual” live performances

ORLANDO, Fla. – Pride organizers are taking a second look at their events after the passage of SB-1438, which organizers said they’re afraid could have a negative impact on their festivities.

“It’s affected everything about Lake County Pride... We’ve lost donors, we’ve lost sponsorships,” said Danielle Olivani, who heads Lake County Pride.

Olivani says Lake County’s first-ever pride is in trouble and blames the passing of Senate Bill 1438 — dubbed the Protection of Children Act — for leading to the loss of over $7,000 in sponsorships.

“It’s taken us a little over a year just to get this permit for Pride,” Olivani said. “Our lineup is primarily all-day drag artists, thus causing us to find new performers, possibly a new venue.”

The bill, which now awaits the governor’s signature, would ban minors from attending “adult live performances,” which are defined 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 (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.

Text from SB-1438 "Protection of Children"

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While critics claimed that the bill will impact drag performances, supporters of the bill like Brevard County Rep. Randy Fine said that the bill doesn’t make any specific mention of drag events.

“If I wanted to ban drag shows, I could’ve run that bill,” Fine said. “But we came up with a Supreme Court test that requires you meet four separate standards.”

Though the bill does not specifically mention drag shows, the issue took hold in Florida following a “sexually explicit” Christmas drag queen performance in Orlando last year at The Plaza where three children were found in attendance.

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 performance featured performers engaging in “simulated sexual activity,” exposing their buttocks and wearing prosthetic female genitalia.

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.”

“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.

Meanwhile, Fine has defended the bill as only targeting sexually explicit events, indicating that the legislation isn’t meant to impact LGBTQ+ people in general.

“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?”

The Miller Test determines whether speech or expressions are obscene, but Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani said the bill “conforms the test to the bill sponsor’s preference and provides no clear definition of how it should actually be applied.”

The debate over the definition is also impacting Orlando’s “Come Out with Pride” event scheduled for October.

“We are going to march forward. The event is going to continue to happen. How it will happen, obviously, we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board,” Tatianna Quiroga said.

Quiroga said the group is still in the process of re-organizing, but she added that drag is the backbone of the LGBTQ+ community and said it’s been mischaracterized.

“It’s been spun that this is adult entertainment and that is not true, yes some forms are just as much as other forms aren’t,” said Quiroga.

Quiroga and Olivani said that while they are figuring out what’s next, they leave this message:

“Prides are important for the community. They build unity. They let people know it’s okay to be themselves... If we cancel the Pride, what is that saying?” said Olivani.

While not yet law, the bill’s effects have impacted similar events outside of Central Florida.

Down in Port St. Lucie, The Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast canceled their gay Pride parade and made all other Pride events for those ages 21 and over.

“We hope that everyone understands that this is definitely not what we wanted at all and are working with the city to assure our safety as well as produce a positive event,” the group said.

Back in Central Florida, News 6 will continue to monitor any updates for local Pride events.

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About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.