Florida’s Treasure Coast Pridefest event faced a previously unforeseen cancellation and age limitation due to a new state bill, the “Protection of Children” (SB 1438) Act. This bill, which passed the Florida House on April 19, aims to prevent children from attending “adult live performances” and imposes harsh penalties for violators.
The Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast informed the public of their decision on their organization’s page, stating, “After multiple meetings with city officials, it is with a heavy heart that Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast has to announce that this weekend’s Pridefest will now be a 21 and older event.”
Instead, the organization shared plans for a “family-friendly Party in the Park” event to allow young members of the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate. The recent cancellation and age restriction emphasize a growing debate surrounding the role of government in protecting children from these types of events.
Pride parade canceled over bill barring kids' attendance at lewd adult performances / Yaaaaaaaas!!! Groomers move to mars 😎😎😎😎💯💯💯 https://t.co/GI4A8i7NgX
— RHollister (@RobertHollist7) April 23, 2023
SB 1438 defines “adult live performances” as those that “in whole or in part, depict or simulate nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities, lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.” While the bill does not explicitly mention “drag,” opponents such as the ACLU of Florida argue it serves to “erase drag performers and silence the LGBTQ+ community.”
Florida State Rep. John Snyder (R) dismissed these concerns, stating, “Nothing in our legislation would limit a pride parade.” He went on to clarify that the bill does not target drag shows or the annual Treasure Coast Pridefest event. Instead, Snyder asserts that the legislation aims to protect children and uphold their innocence.
Despite Snyder’s assurances, Pridefest organizer and performer Shelita Taylor remains critical of the decision, saying, “This is the one date a year where they can go out and openly be themselves. And it’s been all taken away because of bigotry and hate.”
The bill’s future lies in the hands of Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is expected to sign it into law. The legislation would allow the state to revoke food and beverage licenses from businesses that admit children to adult performances. The DeSantis administration has previously taken steps to withdraw the liquor license of a Miami hotel that hosted a Christmas drag show where children were allegedly present during “lewd” displays.
While the fate of Florida’s Pridefest remains uncertain, the incident has ignited a debate on the balance between protecting children and preserving the freedom of expression for the LGBTQ+ community. As both sides continue to express their viewpoints, this contentious issue will likely persist in shaping the future of pride celebrations and similar events in Florida and beyond.