TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Parades celebrating homosexuality and gender confusion are scheduled in towns across Florida this month, but a new law threatens to bring arrests for certain behavior that has become commonplace at such events.
The Protection of Children Act was passed in April and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on May 17. It prohibits businesses and local governments from exposing children to “adult live performances.”
Many LGBTQ activists have expressed outrage and concern over how the law will impact “Pride” parades. On April 21, Port St. Lucie added a 21+ age restriction to its annual festival and canceled its parade.
Live performances now deemed illegal for children are those that “depict or simulate nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities” or other “lewd conduct.”
Individuals who violate the law – including government employees who issue permits for such performances – can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. Businesses could face fines up to $10,000 and risk losing their license.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED “HARMFUL TO MINORS”
Longstanding obscenity laws define what constitutes “harmful to minors” in Chapter 847 of Florida Statutes. Material that is considered “harmful to minors” must meet each of the following three criteria:
1) Predominantly appeals to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest;
2) Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for minors; and
3) Taken as a whole, is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
The statute points out that: “A mother’s breastfeeding of her baby is not under any circumstance ‘harmful to minors.’”
CROSS-DRESSING: NOT NECESSARILY ILLEGAL
The Protection of Children Act was framed by critics as an “anti-drag” legislation, but a man who is cross-dressing may not necessarily be in violation of the Protection of Children of Act.
“That, in and of itself… if they’re not doing sexualized activities, then it’s not contemplated in our bill,” Sen. Clay Yarborough (R-Jacksonville), who sponsored the bill, told The Florida Standard.
“We don’t spell out in the bill that a person can’t be dressed a certain way or that they can’t participate in an event or something like that,” he added. “The trigger points are nudity, sexual or lewd activities or conduct.”
Drag performances that have made news headlines in recent years are often marked by men wearing lingerie and dancing like a stripper. However, Drag Queen Story Time at a public library – during which a man wearing a dress wearing lipstick, a wig and fake breasts reads a book to young kids – would apparently not violate the Protection of Children Act.
Reported violations would be investigated by the Department of Businesses and Professional Regulation (DBPR). The department would consult legal experts when deciding about a questionable incident.
WHAT ABOUT BONDAGE?
It is not uncommon for “Pride” parades to feature other types of deviant behavior, including sado-masochism and bondage. Although he would not be the one making the official ruling, Yarborough suspects this would likely violate the state’s definition of harmful to minors due to the “prevailing standards in the adult community.”
“That’s something that – at least on the whole – our adult community here in Florida seems pretty adamant about as far as protecting kids,” he said. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that’s a prevailing standard for adults in the state at this point. I hope it’s always that way.”