TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — On Thursday, the Senate’s Rules Committee advanced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to admit a child to an “adult live performance.”
Sponsored by Sen. Clay Yarborough (R-Nassau & Duval Counties), SB 1438 was introduced in reaction to an influx in venues allowing children into drag show performances throughout the state.
The bill defines an adult live performance as “a presentation that depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, or specific sexual activities.” The penalty for violating the prohibition is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000.
“LET KIDS BE KIDS”
“We need to let kids be kids and our laws need to set appropriate boundaries that respect the rights and responsibilities of parents while protecting children from the serious health, safety and welfare consequences of being exposed to mature content at young ages,” Sen. Yarborough began.
“As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to protect children from viewing lewd content that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in our community. Therefore we have to take it seriously when a business knowingly admits children to adult live performances,” he continued.
Sen. Shervin “Shev” Jones (D-Miami-Dade) immediately voiced concern over the bill, bringing up the fact that a significant number of establishments in his district have been having drag brunches on Sundays. “Would this bill affect these venues? They’re worried their licenses will be taken away,” he asked Sen. Yarborough.
Sen. Yarborough explained that the bill does not specifically target these venues - it is solely designed to keep children safe from witnessing “lewd” content.
A representative from The Christian Family Coalition spoke in support of the bill: “This bill is needed because as we’ve seen, there is a grooming agenda and it’s a very aggressive agenda. Why would you be against legislation that protects children from sexually explicit content?”
Sen. Jones responded to the representative: “What do you mean by the grooming agenda? Did you hear anyone up here saying that we want children to see inappropriate content? Just because we don’t support this bill doesn’t mean we’re groomers!”
Sen. Jones then asked the representative from Christian Family Coalition if he could provide an example of “grooming” that occurred at any of these events.
The representative referred to a Christmas-themed drag show that took place in December where a half-naked performer changed “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer to Screw-doff the red-nipped reindeer”
“THIS DOESN’T WEAPONIZE THE STATE, IT EMPOWERS IT”
“I don’t think any of us up here have prejudices, we’re talking about sexualizing children, Sen. Ileana Garcia (R-Miami-Dade) said.
Another member of Christian Family Coalition added: “Children aren’t allowed into strip clubs so what are we doing allowing them in places where there are adult live performances? No one here wants to get rid of drag. If you’re an adult and want to do this, that’s your business. This doesn’t weaponize the state, it empowers them.”
A mother of three from Okaloosa County spoke in support of the bill, and suggested adding an amendment to target publicly funded establishments or properties that host these shows.
“WHY NOT INCLUDE CHILDREN’S BEAUTY PAGEANTS IN THE BILL?”
Sen. Lauren Book (D-Broward) spoke in fierce opposition of the bill: “The fact that drag queen story hour, which simply celebrates diversity and the right to be yourself is being equated to grooming is wrong. It takes us back to a place in society where the LGBT community was wrongfully branded as perverse for simply existing. Why not include children’s beauty pageants? Movies? I oppose this bill.”
Sen. Jones followed up, adding, “There’s a culture that’s being created in this state and across the country…and on both sides, we need to be cognizant of how we label and talk to each other. I do not agree with children sitting through inappropriate content. But I think that when you’re talking about groomers, we need to be careful to throw these labels around.”
Following their statements, Sen. Jones and Book excused themselves from the heated debate.
“REMAIN KIND AND TOLERANT”
Sen. Rosalind Osgood (D-Broward) followed up by urging her fellow lawmakers and audience members to remain kind and tolerant: “We need to operate from a place of freedom of expression and listen more,” she said
Following debate, Sen. Yarborough stated: “The bill does not mention anything about grooming and there’s not a senator up here who has said anything about that. It doesn’t matter if someone is involved in drag, is in the LGBT community, or straight. Anyone can harm a child. And I don’t think it’s fair to label anyone as such.”
Yarborough concluded: “Adults can make their own decisions but there has to be accountability when a business is knowingly exposing children to sexually lewd content”.
Despite the heated debate, SB 1438 passed along party lines and is now heading to the Senate floor.