What is Florida’s new drag show law, SB 1438?  Breaking down the law’s impact.

What is Florida’s new drag show law, SB 1438? Breaking down the law’s impact.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new anti-drag show bill, SB 1438, into law last week along with three other bills that place severe restrictions, or in some cases, outright ban gender-affirming care, where transgender people can use the bathroom and more.

Florida’s new anti-drag show bill was expanded to include vague language that can be used to attack drag shows and performances, which opponents call redundant as Florida already has a law prohibiting exposing minors to shows considered sexually explicit or harmful.

DeSantis has railed against drag events that admit children and attempted to strip venues that host them of their liquor licenses, even as his own state agents reported no lewd conduct at one of the events he criticized.

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Florida’s new anti-drag show bill, SB 1438, summary

To be clear, SB 1438 doesn’t significantly change existing Florida laws. Instead, it expands it by:

  • Creates Florida Statute 255.70, defining the term “governmental entity.”

  • Bars governmental entities from issuing permits to conduct a performance that would violate Florida Statute 827.11.

  • Amends Florida Statute 509.261, authorizing the Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to fine, suspend or revoke the license of any public lodging establishment or public food service establishment if they admit a minor to an adult live performance.

  • Amends Florida Statute 561.29 to give the DBPR full power and authority to revoke or suspend the license of any person issued under the Beverage Law if they violate the new law.

  • Creates Florida Statute 827.11, defining the terms “adult live performance” and “knowingly.”

  • Authorizes and outlines the DBPR to issue specified fines for first, second and subsequent violations for all of the above.

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Defining ‘governmental entity’

Here’s how SB 1438 defines “governmental entity:”

Any state, county, district or municipal officer, department, division, board, bureau, commission or other separate unit of government created or established by law and any other public or private agency, person, partnership or corporation or business entity acting on behalf of any public agency.

Businesses are liable for hosting ‘adult live performances’ and could face fines, license revocation, suspension

The DBPR is now authorized to fine, suspend or revoke the license of any business within its jurisdiction if that business admits a child to an adult live performance.

The law specifically states that the violation constitutes an “immediate serious danger to the public health, safety or welfare” for the purposes of Florida Statute 120.60(6).

Businesses that violate the law may be subjected to a $5,000 fine for a first offense and a $10,000 fine for any subsequent offense.

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Florida DBPR can suspend, revoke liquor licenses

The DBPR is now authorized to fine, suspend or revoke the liquor license of any person or business within its jurisdiction if that business admits a child to an adult live performance.

Businesses that violate the law may be subjected to a $5,000 fine for a first offense and a $10,000 fine for any subsequent offense.

Defining ‘adult live performances’ and ‘knowingly’

The last section of the bill is used to define what the terms “adult live performances” and “knowingly” outline.

According to SB 1438, adult live performances means any show, exhibition or other presentation in front of a live audience that depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or specific sexual activities as they are defined in Florida Statute 847.001, lewd conduct or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.

Knowingly is defined as having general knowledge of, reason to know or a belief or ground for belief which warrants further inspection or inquiry of the character and content of any adult live performance and the age of a child present at the performance.

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What are the impacts of Florida’s new anti-drag law?

The law immediately went into effect when it was signed on May 17. That means there hasn’t been enough time to measure the widespread impacts of the bill.

However, many opponents of the new law say the bill would significantly impact pride celebrations and parades, which have historically featured people dressed in drag. While the new law doesn’t explicitly state that these events are illegal, its vague language could allow counties and other governments to choose not to issue permits for these types of events.

And pride events moving forward could face a first-degree misdemeanor for anything that could be labeled an “adult performance” that happens at the event, whether it’s under the control of the organizer or not.

While Yarborough said he wasn’t targeting specific events with the bill or amendment, the sponsor of the bill’s companion in the Florida House of Representatives was more explicit.

“I’ve never been to a Pride parade. It’s not my thing, not my group,” Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said in an interview. “But I have seen photos and videos of these things where you see participants behaving in ways that would not be appropriate in front of his bill.”

Fine said those tasked with enforcing the law “would focus on the conduct of the folks in the parade … so it will be up to folks to make sure they follow the law.”

It’s also unclear how the new bill impacts other adult performances.

Supporters say the bill addresses all adult performances, not just drag, but the definition of “adult performance,” similar to the Supreme Court’s classic definition of obscenity, remains a matter of opinion.

Critics of the bill say it’s difficult to understand what is specifically prohibited and how it would be enforced.

“This bill doesn’t ban drag but is designed to discourage LGBTQ-friendly businesses, and now cities and counties, from opening their doors to drag performers,” organizers with Tallahassee Pride said in a statement. “The language is written broadly and threatens entities with excessive fines and misdemeanor charges with the intention of sparking fear and intimidation that will lead to self-censorship.”

Are drag shows illegal in Florida?

No. Drag shows are still legal. But venues will have to ensure that children are not allowed in any adult performance at the risk of fine, suspension or loss of license, with the possibility of an additional $5,000 fine for the first violation and a $10,000 fine for the second and subsequent violations. Knowingly allowing a child to attend an adult performance would be a first-degree misdemeanor.

Contributors: CA Bridges — USA Today Network

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: What is Florida’s anti-drag law? Breaking down the law’s impact.

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