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Anti-drag bill advances in Florida

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Photo courtesy of Drag Queen Story Hour - Florida Chapter / Facebook
Photo courtesy of Drag Queen Story Hour - Florida Chapter / Facebook

The Florida State Senate has passed a bill that would bar children from attending drag performances, including drag queen story hours. The bill passed on April 11 on a straight party-line vote, with 28 Republicans voting yes, and 12 Democrats voting no.

The bill will now go to the House, where it is almost certain to pass in the Republican-controlled chamber.

According to Florida Politics, the measure does not explicitly mention drag performances, but it does forbid "lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts," meant to appeal to "prurient, shameful, or morbid interests," and displays that are patently offensive and "without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for the age of the child present."

The measure authorizes state officials of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to suspend or revoke the liquor license of any establishment that admits minors to a live, adult performance.

Photo courtesy of Wynwood Pride  

A person who admits a child to such a performance, as the bill defines it, would face a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.

During a House committee hearing on the bill, Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby, a fundamentalist minister who has delivered benedictions for several Trump rallies, labeled Transgender people as "mutants, devils, and imps."

"To have a lawmaker say something so vile and so hurtful and so painful about any group of people ... I don't go for that," said Democratic Sen. Rosalind Osgood. Osgood indicated she had voted for the bill in committee but was changing her vote because she did not agree with anti-Trans bigotry.

Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky slammed the bill as "a waste of time" and the "height of hypocrisy" from a legislature that has passed numerous bills in the name of "parental rights."

"Why does a person dressed in a costume of the other sex scare you so much?" she asked. The anti-Transgender movement exemplified in Rep. Barnaby's speech could result in real harm, Polsky added.

"This bill feeds into that kind of dangerous rhetoric, and it will lead to violence," she warned. "Here is yet another example of big government going too far to take away our freedom. There's no other way to describe it."

No Republican lawmaker other than the bill's sponsor, Sen. Clay Yarborough, spoke in favor of the measure.