The administration of anti-LGBTQ+ Florida Gov. Ron Desantis (R) is trying to take away the liquor license of a performing arts center as punishment for hosting a drag show that children were allowed to attend.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed a complaint on Friday against The Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation Inc. after it hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas” show on December 28th.
According to the complaint, the show included sexually explicit songs and dances without expressly prohibiting children from attending. Instead, the venue left it up to parents’ discretion with a sign that read, “while we are not restricting access to anyone under 18 please be advised some may think the context is not appropriate for under 18.”
The complaint took issue with the fact that the drag show was advertised as “all ages” and said the note warning about inappropriate content “was barely visible.”
According to the complaint, “The Show featured numerous segments where performers engaged in acts of sexual conduct, simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays,” such as a song about “Screwdolph the Red-Nippled Reindeer” who “had a very shiny bust.”
It then accused the performers of violating Florida law by “expos[ing] genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner and by conducting acts simulating sexual activity in the presence of children younger than 16 years of age.” It said the show constituted a “public nuisance” and as such the venue should have its liquor license taken away.
Out former Florida legislator Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) tweeted that the attempt by the DeSantis administration “is an extreme abuse of regulatory power that can have devastating economic consequences for this local business.”
“Why can’t parents decide what’s appropriate for their own kids.”
DeSantis, in fact, has built his brand around the idea of “parents rights” but has used the concept as an excuse to demonize LGBTQ+ people by arguing that parents have the right to “protect” their children from learning about LGBTQ+ people in school. His administration does not appear to believe parents’ rights also extend the other direction to allow more liberal parents the right to raise their children as they want to.
Right-wingers and conservatives have increasingly targeted and protested at drag shows, claiming that the performers seek to “sexualize” children. Drag performers and venues hosting their events have been subject to death threats and harassment for participating.
The DeSantis administration has gone after more than one Christmas-themed drag show this holiday season as well.
And in July, his administration filed a complaint against the Miami restaurant R House after it hosted a drag brunch event attended by some children. DeSantis’ complaint cited a 1947 state Supreme Court ruling which declared “men impersonating women” in a “suggestive and indecent” manner as a public nuisance.
“Having kids involved in this is wrong,” DeSantis said about the restaurant’s event. “That is not consistent with our law and policy in the state of Florida, and it is a disturbing trend in our society to try to sexualize these young people.”