Florida's 'Protection of Children' bill dubbed by critics as 'Anti-Drag Show'

'This ... is another case of the state Legislature preempting home rule,' Lake Worth Beach Vice Mayor Christopher McVoy says
Posted at 4:17 PM, Apr 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-06 17:13:53-04

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — A new amendment to a bill in Florida aims to penalize venues that allow children inside during certain types of adult live performances.

The sponsor of the bill calls it the "Protection of Children" bill, but critics have dubbed it the "Anti-Drag Show" bill.

The new amendment could punish local governments that permit certain events.

A few weeks ago Lake Worth Beach hosted a massive Pride Festival and Parade, which was permitted by the city. Local elected officials believe a new amendment to Senate Bill 1438 could threaten the future of similar events.

SB 1438's new amendment would criminally punish the person who issued the permit for any event that exposes children to an adult live performance that includes nudity, sexual conduct or lewd exposure.

Lake Worth Beach Vice Mayor Christopher McVoy takes issue with the descriptions of the adult live performances that can violate this bill, should it become law.

"I was at the Pride Festival at Bryant Park both days. I suspect that there's a fair chance that I would be charged under this thing because I, after checking for approval from Compass, chose to join the parade in drag," McVoy said. "Now, I don't know that I would consider I had anything particularly lewd, but it says if I have lewd exposure of breasts for instance, or, well, I stuffed some paper towels in my shirt. Is that lewd? Were they exposed? I don't know. It was a pretty nice gown."

McVoy added there is concern about how this bill might impact future LGBTQ+ festivals, mainly because local governments might be hesitant to issue permits to avoid any chance of a violation.

"This, to me, is another case of the state Legislature preempting home rule and telling communities that you can't choose what you want to be as a community," McVoy said.

State Sen. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, is the sponsor of this bill and proposed the amendment that includes government entities. He was not available to speak with WPTV about the legislation.

However, Yarborough released the following statement regarding concerns that the bill could impact local festivals:

"The bill does not ban any business or any public entity from hosting any kind of event or performance, including a public parade. Unless an entity is planning to admit children to a live event that would include nudity, sexual conduct, or lewd exposure, there should be no cause for distress about the provisions of this bill. It is a concern for me and other parents and constituents when you have any activity or venue where children are being exposed to nudity and lewd conduct. We are trying to protect children, who cannot un-see, un-hear, or un-experience things they are exposed to.

In our bill, we define an adult live performance consistent with standards approved by the Supreme Court to determine whether or not speech is considered obscene, and provide penalties if a business admits a child to a live performance that contains such activities. The language we added Tuesday states that a governmental entity cannot issue a permit for a performance that would include the same activities prohibited by the bill, if a child is present. Our children are highly valued, and parents want to make sure they are protected.

Parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit, and government intervention should be a last resort. However, as lawmakers, we have a responsibility to protect children from viewing lewd conduct that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in our communities. Therefore, we have to take it seriously when a business or a government entity in our state knowingly admits children to view performances meant for an adult audience."

Compass LGBTQ+ Community Center released the following statement regarding the bill:

"The number of anti-LGBTQ laws being prepared in Tallahassee is staggering. All of them infringe on the rights guaranteed to Americans by the Bill of Rights.

As with all bills that have not yet been signed into law, we are monitoring its progress. But we do believe these laws are designed to have a chilling effect on our community and our allies.

We will continue to provide a safe space for all peaceful people and will continue to celebrate our community as we always have as members of a free society."

The next step for the bill is a third reading.