TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — About 200 drag queens and LGBTQ+ advocates flooded Tallahassee streets Tuesday afternoon.
The group marched to the historic capitol protesting a slate of legislation they considered hateful, transphobic and censorship. Organizers believed it to be the largest gathering of its kind in state history.
Their hair was as high as their frustration, many trading in heels for boots and sneakers to march for what they said is to protect their livelihood and lives.
"We won't be erased," Regina Livingston of Gainesville said. "We understand that laws have been passed, but we're going to let them know we're not going to take it laying down."
The legislation provoking the protest includes bills limiting public bathrooms to biological sex, bans on gender dysphoria treatments for minors, and a policy already headed to the governor, which threatens fines and jail time to those admitting kids to "adult live performances." The phrase has been defined as a presentation that "depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, or specific sexual activities…"
Many participants think the measure is an attempt to chill drag shows.
"Things are not going the way the world needs them to go," said Bruce, a Floridian who marched in drag and declined to give a last name. "We're all here to have a good time and show love not hate."
The GOP majority is pushing the measures this year. Many Republicans have said their goal is not to censor or harm but to protect the well-being of children and shield them from lewd material.
Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, is carrying the House version of the adult performances bill.
"I was motivated by what happened in my own community," Fine said recently. "The city sponsored an event and put adult entertainers in the middle of the street. Parents walking by had adult sex toys waived in the faces of their kids. That's not OK."
Other Republicans took to Twitter as protesters crowded into the capitol building.
"Radical trans-agitators are demanding that we allow children to attend drag shows," Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, said online. "It's not going to happen in Florida, no matter how loud you scream."
All three of the bills are likely to get the governor's signature this session if they arrive at his desk. Protesters, however, were not dismayed. Their focus was already turning to the ballot box in 2024.
"We're taking people to the polls," Darcel Stevens of Orlando said. "That's the only way things will change. ... We want to see you in that hallowed hall up there, not the people who are voting against us."
Outside of the efforts to motivate voters, LGBTQ+ advocates also said it was likely Florida courts would see legal challenges if the governor signs these bills, either for denying access to medical care or as an affront to freedom of speech.