TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has launched an investigation into a Fort Lauderdale venue to determine whether a holiday drag show it hosted exposed children to sexually-explicit acts.
The investigation, led by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, was announced in a statement by Jeremy T. Redfern, deputy press secretary for DeSantis.
“The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is aware of multiple complaints about a sexually explicit performance marketed to children held in Fort Lauderdale on December 26th. The Department is actively investigating this matter, including video footage and photographs from the event. DBPR will, like in other cases, take action,” the statement obtained by WFLA said. “Exposing children to sexually explicit activity is a crime in Florida, and such action violates the Department’s licensing standards for operating a business and holding a liquor license.”
“A Drag Queen Christmas”, is a holiday-themed drag show that tours across the country, featuring alumni from the reality series “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The event was held at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale on Monday and is scheduled to take place at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall on Thursday.
The show features adult themes and content, and admission is limited to patrons 18 years of age or over, according to the event details page. Proof of age is required. However, the state said it learned the show was being “marketed to and attended by minors, including young children.”
“Sexually explicit drag show performances constitute public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct when minors are in attendance,” Secretary of Business and Professional Regulation Melanie S. Griffin said in a letter, citing a Florida statute that forbids operating a building for the purpose of lewdness.
“Accordingly, Florida’s licensure laws provide strict penalties for licensees who allow minors to attend these drag shows at their licensed premises,” Griffin warned. “These penalties range up to and include revocation of the license pertaining to the licensed premises. In short, if you allow children to attend the Drag Fans drag show at your facility, you are putting your license in jeopardy.”
“If minors are allowed to attend this drag show, the Department will take any and all actions available to ensure that you do not pose a threat to minors in the future,” the letter continued.
News Channel 8 reached out to the Broward Center of the Arts for comment.
“Please note that admission to Drag Queen Christmas on December 26 at the Broward Center was limited to patrons 18 years or older, unless accompanied by a parent. To ensure patrons were aware of the adult themes and content in the show, this information was on the website and ticket purchase page; all ticket buyers were also informed directly through a “Know Before You Go” email, a customer communication that is sent out in advance of most shows,” the center’s media department said in a statement.
It’s not the first time the DeSantis administration has taken aim at drag shows. In July, they filed a complaint against a Miami bar that hosted a drag show with children in attendance.
The governor has also considered having child protective services investigate parents who take their kids to drag shows.
“We have child protective statutes on the books,” DeSantis said. “We have laws against child endangerment.”