• Politics

    A day after DeSantis denounces drag shows, Tampa Pride cancels Pride on the River event

    Tampa’s Pride on the River event has taken place in September over the past three years, showcasing a festival, a diversity boat parade, a drag brunch, musical performances, art face painters and balloons for kids. But this year, the event has been canceled.

    “The climate right now is just really bad,” said Carrie West, the president of Tampa Pride.

    The decision came 24 hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis came to Tampa to sign into law SB 1438, which prohibits a person, or business establishment from “knowingly” admitting a child to an adult live performance.

    If the person or bar or restaurant knowingly admits a child to an adult live performance has a beverage license, they are subjected to having that license suspended or revoked and being fined $5,000 for a first violation and $10,000 for a subsequent violation. It also prohibits a government entity from issuing a permit to a person or business admits a child to an adult live performance.

    “There’s like these drag shows,” DeSantis said in discussing the legislation. “They’re sexually explicit in what they’re doing and look, adult entertainment, people can do what they want with some of that, but to have minors there?”

    Had that event occurred this fall, says West, hundreds of kids likely would have been there — mostly teens between 14 and 16 and many accompanied with their parents who could come to watch the drag performances.

    West says he’s hoping to bring back the event next year.

    Meanwhile, in Broward County, one City Commissioner in Wilton Manors says that he’s unsure that the type of drag performances that have taken place at their annual Stonewall Pride Parade & Street Festival even constitutes “adult live performance,” and he says that they will allow drag to be part of their event, even with children present.

    “While the language is certainly vague in the bill, I certainly believe that the performances that we’ve had and expect to have in the future are of artistic and political value, that they’re not lewd in nature, so even though this bill does carve out some scenarios where it attempts to ban certain public conduct, I don’t believe it’s the type of conduct that we’ve had at our Stonewall Prides in the past drag performances,” says Wilton Manors City Commissioner Chris Caputo.

    The bill language defines “adult live performance” to mean any “show, exhibition or other presentation in front of a live audience in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or specific sexual activities as those terms are define.” It goes on to mention “adult live performances” with “prosthetic breasts and genitals.”

    The Stonewall Pride Parade & Street Festival typically attracts 50,000 people and had a director economic impact of more than $6 million for Wilton Manors, according to the organization’s website.

    The Wilton Manors City Commission recently passed as amendment to the permit for Stonewall Pride to ensure compliance with the new law. Though the measure has been denounced by some LGBTQ+ activists in South Florida, Caputo insists that at least to him personally, the city is not changing anything.

    “We’re not planning on banning any kids under 21,” he says. “In fact, it would be impossible because this parade goes right through our downtown area. There are residents on both sides so there’s no way to be certain that there’s not minors or children who don’t live in those residents. We may just take a different view than some other people, in that we don’ t believe the drag that we have is a violation.”

    As to the fact that organizers of the river parade in Tampa are cancelling their event because of concerns about the new law, Caputo says that the intent of the legislation was designed to scare the LGBTQ+ community. “We’re not going to be bullied,” he says.

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