What you need to know about Florida's 'anti-drag' bill

A Republican-backed bill that LGBTQ advocates say will censor drag performances and Pride events is now on Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk after House lawmakers approved the measure on April 19.

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. Should the governor sign the bill, it will go into effect the same day.

CoCo Cavlli performs in front of the crowd at Cafe DaVinci drag show Tuesday, April 19th, 2023 at their weekly pride night event !

In case you missed it: 'A tight-knit community': What happens at weekly drag shows at Cafe DaVinci in DeLand?

Here’s what we know about the bill:

House approved the bill along party lines

The bill (SB 1438), entitled “Protection of Children,” received final approval by the House on April 19 in an 82-32 party-line vote. On Monday, the bill was still awaiting the governor’s signature.

What does the bill say?

The bill seeks to block venues from admitting children to “adult live performances.”

More: What is drag? Is Florida banning drag shows?

It defines “adult live performances” as “any show, exhibition, or other presentation that is performed in front of a live audience and in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, specific sexual activities, … lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”

Would the bill restrict Pride events?

It seems so. The bill would prohibit local governments from issuing public permits for events that could expose children to the targeted behavior. Also, it would allow state regulators to suspend or revoke licenses of restaurants, bars and other venues that violate the law.

What do its supporters say?

Republican advocates for the bill said the measure aimed to protect children.

“Let kids be kids,” Rep. Doug Bankson, R-Apopka, said during debate on the drag show bill. “Protect them from losing their innocence.”

Impact already being felt: Port St. Lucie cancels Saturday's Pride parade and restricts event to 21 years and older

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, a sponsor of the House version of the bill, suggested that it would result in potential restrictions on Pride parades and events.

Aaliyah Nouveau in performs in front of the crowd at Cafe DaVinci at the club's weekly Pride Night event in DeLand. LGBTQ advocates say such events could be censored if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a new anti-drag bill into law.

"I've never been to a Pride parade. It's not my thing, not my group," Fine said in an interview. "But I have seen photos and videos from these things where you see participants behaving in ways that would not be appropriate in front of this bill."

What do its opponents say?

Those opposed to the bill say that it’s vaguely worded, making it hard to determine 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."

Amaya Scandall performs in front of the crowd at Cafe DaVinci at the club's weekly Pride Night event. LGBTQ advocates say that such events could be censored if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a new anti-drag bill into law.

In House debate, Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-North Miami, said the bill was effectively wielding the “power of the state to advance a homophobic agenda.”

“This is about punishing businesses that dare ally themselves with a vulnerable community that’s on the hit list,” Joseph said.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Florida 'anti-drag' bill: What's in it and what its impact could be