TAMPA, Fla. — Performers in Tampa are raising money to head to Tallahassee in an effort to lobby against a controversial bill a lawmaker says focuses on drag shows.
City Side Lounge in Tampa hosted a “Drag Is Not a Crime” fundraiser Thursday night to help cover the costs to send members from the Tampa Bay drag community to the state capital.
“The fact that they’re trying to shut us down, and our first amendment right to express ourselves,” performer Ericka PC said. “It’s just not okay.”
The bill in question, HB 1423, has a version currently presented in Florida’s House and Senate.
Both versions say that an establishment could face fines if they allow children into a venue with a live adult performance that depicts or simulates acts that include nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, lewd conduct, and/or more.
If this bill passes and someone knowingly lets a child into such a show, they could face criminal charges.
"If this bill goes into effect here in the state of Florida, like it has in the state of Tennessee, for example, this is just the beginning,” performer KC Starr said. “This not where this bill will end."
Last week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed into law a bill that bans adult cabaret from public property or anywhere minors might be present, the Associated Press reports. Performers could face a misdemeanor charge, or a felony if it's a repeat offense.
The bill introduced in the Florida Legislature had its first reading on Tuesday, and is currently in the House Commerce committee.
“You could take your child to a movie theater PG-13 and up, and they’re not going after that,” Ericka said.
We reached out to the bill’s sponsor in the House Representative Randy Fine, to ask that question. He says this is about protecting children.
10 Tampa Bay asked Fine if there would be future legislation, or a different version of this legislation to offer similar protections to children from non-live explicit material, such as R-rated movies.
Fine responded, “No.”
10 Tampa Bay then asked Fine why that wouldn’t be included based on the logic behind the bill.
He responded, “Movies that show strip shows or men dressed like strippers…there are categories of movies that you can’t take children to, it’s a rating called NC-17. The focus of our bill is on drag shows." Fine went on to say, “The Supreme Court once said, 'You know pornography when you see it, and I think it’s the case here.'”
Drag performers in Tampa believe this is just the first step in restricting their rights before Florida lawmakers make a greater effort.
“We have never been about pushing our life on someone else,” Starr said. “We just want to be able to exist like everyone else, and we feel like that’s fair.”
Performers say the money raised at Thursday night’s event will go toward covering their travel expenses to Tallahassee in an effort to speak with lawmakers.
Back in December 2022, a traveling Christmas-themed drag show with stops in Florida was under investigation after state officials claimed it was advertised to children despite warnings on the ticketing site that the event contained adult themes and single minors weren't allowed.
A spokesperson for Gov. DeSantis, Bryan Griffin, said that the state at the time would "take action" against those who expose sexually explicit activity to children, appearing to refer to the state's law of "exposing minors to harmful" shows and other material.
10 Tampa Bay's Jordan Highsmith contributed to this article.