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Hundreds of drag queens rallied at the Florida Capitol to protest the state’s anti-drag bill

Protesters on the steps of the Florida Capitol building.
Protesters on the steps of the Florida Capitol building. Photo: Screenshot/ABC News/WTXL

Hundreds of drag performers rallied at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee on Tuesday to protest the state’s recently passed anti-drag bill.

According to The Hill, over 300 drag queens and their allies from all over the state marched on the Florida Capitol building for the rally organized by LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Florida. The group called the event, which it said was aimed at educating the public about the “rich history of Drag as a form of cultural artistic expression suitable for all ages,” the largest of its kind.

Demonstrators entered the Florida Capitol building, clapping fans and chanting, “Drag is not a crime,” in the rotunda.

The focus of the demonstration was on the state’s recently passed S.B. 1438. The bill, which is widely expected to be signed by Florida’s anti-LGBTQ+ Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, prohibits government entities from issuing permits to organizations that may hold “adult live performances” in the presence of minors. The bill defines “adult live performance” 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, or specific sexual activities… lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.” Businesses that run afoul of the law risk losing their food and beverage licenses.  

While it does not explicitly mention drag, critics say the law would specifically target businesses that host drag shows. Republican politicians across the country have increasingly targeted drag performances and family-friendly events like drag queen story hours and drag brunches, characterizing them as sexually explicit adult entertainment.

The DeSantis administration has already filed multiple complaints against Florida businesses that have hosted drag performances, calling for their liquor licenses to be revoked. One Florida city has already canceled its Pride parade in anticipation of the governor signing S.B. 1438 into law.

Florida state Sen. Linda Stewart (D) noted the impact drag events have on Orlando’s local economy. She told local NBC affiliate WESH that she worries performers could lose their livelihoods should the bill become law.

“The narrative that the LGBTQ community is trying to groom children is absurd. It’s absolutely absurd, and it’s just meant to be a political issue and drive people apart,” performer Axel Andrews, who traveled from Orlando for the rally, said of rampant anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation that has proliferated on social media. “We’re not what we’re being deemed to be. So I think it’s important for people to know we’re not happy, and we’re fighting for who we are as people, as entertainers, and who we are in the community.”

State Sen. Shevrin Jones (D) spoke at Tuesday’s rally, telling the hundreds gathered that he wanted to “acknowledge and to affirm to you all, that you are supposed to be here and there’s nothing wrong with you.”

In a statement, Orlando drag activist Darcel Stevens, who helped organize the rally, said, “Drag Queens are not just entertainers, we’re valued contributors to society — small business owners, parents, teachers, nurses, first responders and much more. Floridians know we pose no threat. That’s why we’re united here using our powerful collective voices to encourage political activism, register voters, and resist policies that harm us and the brothers and sisters in our LGBTQIA+ community.”

“We are not going anywhere, we will not be silent, we will rise up and we will fight back,” Stevens said.

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