TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida lawmakers have drafted legislation to ban drag show performances if children might see them in restaurants, bars, or other venues. Should the bill pass, businesses that violate the proposed rules would risk their license to operate.
House Bill 1423, sponsored by Broward Republican Randy Fine is titled “Protection of Children.” As written, the bill states that adult performances that a child may be able to see constitute an “immediate, serious danger to public health, safety, or welfare.”
In response, the legislation would make it so an adult live performance, defined in the bill as:
- Any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience which, in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, specific sexual activities as defined by state statute
- Performances that present lewd conduct, the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genital or breasts when it
- predominantly appeals to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest
- Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community of this state as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for the age of the child present
- Taken as a whole is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for the age of the child present
To count as a violation, Fine’s bill requires the child’s presence to be undertaken “knowingly,” meaning the business’ operator has general knowledge that minors are present during the performance or has reason to know, or a belief or grounds for belief that would require “further inspection or inquiry.”
However, the inspection or inquiry must pertain to the “character and content of any adult live performance” which the state says is “reasonably susceptible of examination by the defendant” pertaining to a child’s age.
That said, if an operator is ignorant of a child’s age, or the child misrepresents their age, or has a bona fide belief of a child’s consent, none of those circumstances may be raised as defense if prosecution for violating the proposed bill occurs.
Under the bill, violations could result in a revocation of business licenses if a child is admitted to the performances at issue.
Additionally, the bill would allow the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to fine businesses $5,000 for a first violation, and an additional $10,000 for each violation after.
Amid the ongoing back-and-forth with drag shows and politics, Clearwater restaurant Hamburger Mary’s, staffed by drag queens, will close its doors. However, when confirming the news of the closure, no specific reason was given by the owners, leaving it a mystery.
Violations of the bill, should it pass into law, would count as a first degree misdemeanor. If HB 1423 passes, it would take effect immediately upon becoming law.