Apparently that’s all the difference between appeasing Gov. Ron DeSantis versus standing up to him.
With Pride season underway, DeSantis and his band of bureaucrats cast a long, dark shadow over the festivities. Their stated goal: protecting children from drag queens.
Tampa Pride is preemptively taking action to avoid a confrontation with the governor whereas Palm Beach Pride is standing firm against right-wing extremists.
Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) has already begun or threatened investigations into venues that host events where children are present while drag queens perform. The intimidation insinuates that the mere presence of someone dressed in clothes deemed non-conforming to their gender assigned at birth is a danger to young people. The DBPR has the power to pull a venue’s liquor license, which most times would force a business to close.
With a month to go before Tampa Pride (the event) on March 25, Tampa Pride (the organization) is taking action to cut the governor off at the pass. They announced that anywhere alcohol is sold under their liquor license will be 18+ only.
“Events and establishments throughout the state have been met with egregious letters threatening closures and revocation of liquor licenses if ‘drag’ is performed in front of minors,” Executive Board member Cassandra Hair said. “Unfortunately, due to this current discriminatory cloud the State of Florida has laid upon the Drag community, in all its wonderful forms, we made the decision to make Pride @ Night, Daytime Main Stage, and other areas where liquor is sold 18 years and older.”
It’s important to note that this is preemptive, and that the organization has received no notice from a state agency regarding drag performers.
However, drag entertainment will still be on full display for anyone to enjoy.
“As it has been for the last nine years, Tampa Pride Diversity Parade, Street Festival, and Food Truck Alley are open for all ages to come, enjoy, and celebrate Pride.”
Hair said the goal is to “live to fight another day,” make sure they don’t give the administration any material to block next year’s liquor license.
“This decision was not taken lightly, and was preemptively made so we can fight this archaic mindset, and bring Pride to our community for many, many years to come.”
Loud & Proud In Palm Beach
Palm Beach Pride, which is organized by Compass in Lake Worth Beach, is the same weekend but is in a different situation. The event doesn’t have a liquor license so state regulators have less leverage to lord over them.
“Youth and allies must be at Pride. Drag queens must be at Pride,” Julie Seaver, Compass’ Executive Director, said.
The parade marches through Lake Worth Beach and ends in the festival at Bryant Park. Seaver assures us that drag queens will be very visible in Sunday’s parade and on the main stage both days.
She consulted with the state’s attorney in Palm Beach County and was told there are no laws against drag entertainment, or drag queens in general, being in public.
Seaver summed up the urgency of inclusive representation, saying, “My job is to keep kids and adults alive.”
Watching & Waiting in Wilton
Wilton Manors has more time to see how events play out. The annual Stonewall Pride Parade & Street Festival doesn’t happen until June 17. The city commission approved a permit for the event in February. During the meeting, commissioners briefly mentioned the possibility of harassment from Tallahassee, but approved the permit with no restrictions.
When he learned of the developments in Tampa, SFGN asked Mayor Scott Newton if the city would consider modifying the permit to prevent drag entertainment in public. He was definitive in his response, saying, “Everyone’s welcome to come to our Stonewall, that’s what it’s all about, being open and free.”
He was asked what would happen if an intimidating letter came from the state demanding restrictions on drag. He was equally emphatic.
“Why would I do that? That’s their right to come to the event. It’s a public event. I can’t stop someone from coming. Why would I say they couldn’t or pull a permit from it? No, I wouldn’t.”