On Wednesday, Florida Republican Representative Randy Fine vehemently defended a bill banning anyone under the age of 18 from being able to attend a drag show.
“If it means erasing a community because you have to target children, then, damn right, we ought to do it!” Fine said.
While Fine didn’t mention what community exactly he is in favor of erasing, the bill in question targets LGBTQ Floridians as a whole, not just drag performers.
Fine argued the bill’s language does not ban drag shows but rather uses language specifically geared toward protecting children. His logic goes, then, if opponents of the bill feel attacked, that’s because they’re in violation of targeting children.
Not so fast, however. On its face, the bill is worded so ambiguously in its focus on the term “adult live performance,” that it would prevent a high school kid from having the ability to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show or even the musical Hair.
The bill defines “adult live performance” to include “any show, exhibition or other presentation in front of a live audience,” that in any form “depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities,” such as “lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”
Consequently, the bill also targets Pride parades and celebrations, by preventing a government entity from issuing permits to organizations that put on such performances. Under the law, any establishment that violates the law would be subject to license suspension or revocation and liable to large fines and a misdemeanor charge. One violation would spur a $5,000 fine; subsequent incidents would spur $10,000 fines.
Ostensibly, authors of the bill are concerned with any conduct deemed “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community of this state as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for the age of the child present.” Yet the bill leaves open the question of what those standards in the “adult community” even are.
Consequently, while Fine argues that the bill’s language is strictly concerned with shielding children, there’s no clear understanding of what the bill is shielding them from. Fine’s idea of what is “offensive” may be radically different from what millions of other people think. And it does not require any special imagination to foresee radical Florida Republicans using such a bill to target any range of activities related to or hosted by LGBTQ people.
After all, this is the same state party whose members have not been shy about attacking LGBTQ people. Governor Ron DeSantis stripped the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation of its liquor license for allowing children to attend a Christmas drag show; banned transgender women from playing women’s sports; fired a state attorney for saying prosecutors can’t criminalize personal medical decisions like abortion or transgender health care; and signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, among other things.
Meanwhile, other Republican lawmakers have called trans people “mutants” and “demons,” while advancing legislation to ban gender-affirming health care and changing defamation law to make it easier to sue people criticizing bigotry.
The bill Fine was defending has already passed the Senate and is working its way through the House, where Republicans also hold control.
Fine, beyond passionately advancing anti-drag-show bills, is also known for threatening to cut off Special Olympics funding for a Florida community after he wasn’t invited to a Special Olympics fundraising event hosted by a city police department, while a school board member Fine has repeatedly attacked was invited. “I’m not going to jack [expletive] where that whore is at,” Fine said in response to a later invitation to the event. “You guys will have to raise a lot of money given that’s who you want to honor, not the person who got you money in the budget.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, it all, Fine is DeSantis’s leading pick to become the new president of Florida Atlantic University, amid the Florida governor’s efforts to hijack the university system with his friends and donors in order to impose radical conservative policies on college campuses.