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Gov. Ron DeSantis wants CPS to investigate parents who take kids to see drag queens

Ron DeSantis, Disney, Florida, district
Ron DeSantisPhoto: Shutterstock

Days after a Texas lawmaker vowed to outlaw drag shows in the presence of children, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) implied he is open to using Florida’s child protective service laws to terminate the parental rights of adults who take their kids to see drag shows.

During a news conference on Wednesday, DeSantis said that he has asked his people to look into the idea. “We have child protective statutes on the books. We have laws against child endangerment.”

Related: GOP lawmaker promises to ban people from taking kids to drag shows

The governor was responding to a question about Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini’s (R) call for an emergency special session of the state legislature to discuss the issue. On Monday, the Republican, who is running for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, tweeted that he intends to propose legislation that would make it a felony for parents to bring their children to what he characterized as “perverted sex shows.”

Sabatini’s tweet came the same day that Texas state Rep. Bryan Slaton (R) vowed to outlaw drag shows in the presence of minors in his state after videos surfaced on social media of a family-friendly afternoon drag performance at a Dallas bar. Since then, conservatives have been posting misleading photos and videos of drag performances on social media in an attempt to make it seem as though children are being exposed to inappropriate and sexually suggestive performances.

“Kids dancing with them, but also then at one point kids giving tip money like somebody would do at strip club giving tip money into the clothing of the drag queens and this kid was probably seven or eight years old,” Sabatini told Florida’s Spectrum News 13.

“You had these very young kids, and they must have been like 9, 10 years old, at a quote, ‘drag show,’ where they were putting money in the underwear of this — and that is totally inappropriate. That is not something that children should be exposed to,” DeSantis said on Wednesday. “We probably — we may have the ability to deal with that if something like that happens.”

LGBTQ Nation reached out to DeSantis’s office to clarify which event he was referencing. The governor’s press secretary Christina Pushaw provided a link to an image that has been circulating on Twitter appearing to show a young child slipping a dollar bill into the waistband of a scantily clad performer. Conservatives have taken particular issue with the idea that children are tipping drag queens in inappropriate ways. However, Twitter users pointed out that the performer in the photo is not a drag queen, but in fact a cisgender burlesque performer.

“We don’t wear G-strings and we’re not stripping and that sort of thing, and they’re trying to make it like that, or worse,” Orlando cabaret performer Leigh Shannon told Spectrum News 13 on Tuesday after Sabatini and Slaton’s proposals. “We have certain parties that want to preach about parents’ rights in schools and banning books, and this or that, and now it looks like we’re trying to take away parents’ rights.”

DeSantis himself has couched Florida’s recently enacted “Don’t Say Gay” law, aimed at preventing any mention of LGBTQ people or issues in public schools. In the language of “parents’ rights,” while across the country Republican lawmakers have tried to cast parents who affirm and support their children’s gender identities as “groomers.” In February, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called on state agencies to report parents providing gender-affirming healthcare to trans kids to the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services.

“It used to be kids would be off limits. Used to be everybody agreed with that,” DeSantis said at the Wednesday presser. “Now it just seems like there’s a concerted effort to be exposing kids more and more to things that are not age appropriate.”

In an emailed statement to local news station 10 Tampa Bay, Sabatini’s campaign said that the proposed Florida bill would be drafted later this month. “I have full confidence that governor DeSantis will support his bill.”

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