In the week since Wilton Manors’ city commission voted unanimously to amend the permit for the Stonewall Pride Parade & Street Festival, people on both sides of the issue on whether or not to comply with drag laws have lashed out.
The amendment ensures event producers follow all laws, including ones passed since the permit was issued in February. The practical effect is to comply with the new law that appears to classify all live drag entertainment, regardless of content, as adult entertainment, and prevent drag performances on outdoor stages that will be set up all along Wilton Drive for the June 17 party.
It appears people in drag will be allowed into the event and to participate in the parade. However, performing in the parade or on any exterior stage is likely to be prohibited due to being labeled adult entertainment. Producers of the event haven’t finalized standards for admission and participation, but have said there will be a “dress code” applying to all participants, vendors, attendees, and performers.
Betrayal & Backlash
Many in the community are livid that the city and event producers will acquiesce to the law for now under the theory that it’s better to live to fight another day. Scott Galvin, the executive director of Safe Schools South Florida, posted on social media, “I've been saying for months that raids of gay bars are near. We need our club owners to stand with us.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the law is needed to protect children and recognize parental rights. Kevin Quinlan, a concerned resident, pointed out this actually infringes on a parent’s rights.
“Families live in the community and love bringing their kids to Wilton Manors. It’s the parents’ responsibility, not the government, to decide what their children are introduced to seeing and viewing.”
Many are calling for outright defiance. But officials and organizers say to do that would win the day but not the fight. Open violation could lead to the governor exercising his authority to remove elected officials and city employees.
Wilton Manors Commissioner Chris Caputo reluctantly voted for the amendment, saying it’s unfair for city employees to get caught up in politics.
“While it's one thing for an elected official like myself to be removed from office, it's not fair to ask our city staff to potentially lose their job and ability to get hired by any other Florida municipality,” he said. “The addition of the statement releases liability from city staff in the event a violation occurs and protects their livelihood and their families. If the governor has someone removed for breaking a law, we can’t ‘block’ that. You’ve seen he has done that already. While it’s conceivable a lawsuit could be filed, it will take years to get through the courts, and the person would be without a job. I can’t ask a city employee to take that risk.”
While it is true that the new law doesn’t change any entertainment plans, that’s mainly because entertainment hasn’t been booked or announced. In previous years, drag entertainment has been a main feature of the main stage and other performance venues.
Caputo says he intends to show up at Stonewall in drag and encourages others to follow suit. There is less than a month until the event and plans, activities, and rules are still forming and could change.
SFGN will continue to follow all the developments and talk with planners, officials, and the entertainers who are affected by the hateful bill coming from the increasingly fascist GOP party in Florida.
Letter to Editor: Drag Queens Are Allowed at Stonewall Pride