The modern LGBT movement started with a riot that changed public awareness and the course of history of LGBT civil rights.
Now, Republicans that run Florida are hoping it will end with a whimper while no one’s watching.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and his underlings are taking their campaign against LGBT to the next level. After years of passing anti-LGBT laws limiting trans rights (including healthcare) and shoving a generation of LGBT youth and teachers back into the closet, they’re no longer even bothering to pass laws and are spreading fear and paranoia via bureaucracy.
Their latest attack on LGBT life is on drag entertainment. DeSantis’ crew has threatened to shut down places hosting any drag entertainment where anyone under 18 is present. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) investigated R House last summer when a child was seen dancing to music. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alums brought A Drag Queen Christmas to the Broward Center and an investigation was launched from Tallahassee. A venue that hosted the same event in Orlando was also looked into.
Last weekend, Wilton Collective held its annual Turnabout to raise money for LGBT youth. When someone heard that there would be drag entertainers performing in the presence of LGBT youth, threats of all kinds came pouring in. Social media accounts tagged state agencies, urging them to send someone to investigate on behalf of the state.
Even more ominously, others looked to take the law into their own hands and sent anonymous threats of violence to Wilton Collective. Julian Cavazos, owner/founder of Wilton Collective, said the community can’t cower in the face of state or anonymous violence.
“We’re doing everything right. We’re not doing anything wrong. This is a family friendly event, bringing together people from all walks of our community.”
Threats are also being made against local elected officials. Wilton Manors City Commissioner Chris Caputo was told DeSantis may remove him from his official position for supporting events. Caputo, who supports many LGBT organizations and events, was a celebrity bartender at the event and says he’ll fight the fights that come to him.
“A member of the Log Cabin Republicans alerted me. I understand he reached out to the governor’s office. He came back to me and said, ‘There’s word from the office you may possibly be recalled for your participation in this.’”
DeSantis has already removed elected leaders who didn’t support or enforce his policies.
The event at Wilton Collective went off without a hitch. People inside had fun and enjoyed the entertainment. Outside sat a staffed WMPD car, serving as a warning to anyone who would try to bring violence to a fun, peaceful event. Due to being held after hours on a Friday during a holiday weekend, it may be a few days before we know if anyone files a formal complaint with DBPR.
When the governor comes after an LGBT group, it will come when nothing is happening. There will be no video of FDLE storming a drag show or breaking up a pride parade. That type of video would cause swing voters to take notice and rise.
The DBPR wields a great deal of power. It can revoke a liquor license, which would essentially put many restaurants or venues out of business. So if DBPR moves to a bar, it will come at 10 a.m. one morning and issue an order to shut down. Legal fights could take months or years, and proving discrimination in courtrooms stocked with Republican appointees will be hard.
In the end, it will be cheaper for a venue to just close. DeSantis also counts on those closures serving as a cautionary tale to other LGBT business owners to modify their programming or never open in the first place.