Tampa Pride says legislation that could ban drag queens at events won't curtail its 2024 plans
In spite of losing sponsorships and being entangled in Florida’s culture wars against the LGBTQ+ community, Tampa Pride attracted thousands of people to its March event.
Now, advocates say, the future of pride events in the state is up in the air after the Senate passed a bill that could have a “chilling effect” on the festivities.
The vaguely worded legislation, called the “Protection of Children” bill, would block venues from admitting kids to “adult live performances,” which pride organizers say could include drag performances, even though drag queens are fully clothed and performing family-friendly routines at events where children could be present.
“What they're trying to do, is trying to say, ‘don't say gay,’ is ‘don't have gays in the state of Florida. LGBT has no place in Florida.’ How wrong is that?” said Tampa Pride President Carrie West.
The bill — one of more than 600 pieces of legislation nationwide aimed at the LGBTQ community — is among a number of proposals being considered during Florida’s 60-day legislative session, which is scheduled to end May 5.
Despite conversations among state pride organizers about the future of the events, West said Tampa Pride will continue planning its 10th anniversary celebration next year — drag queens included.
“I believe drag queens will still be there because they are who they are,” West said.
He said the legislation is nothing more than “DeSantis cronies” pumping up the state governor for a presidential bid, and blames the under-30 crowd for not going to the polls.
“You did not go to the polls to take your chance," West said. "And also your obligation and also your right. Your rights are going to be taken away. You did not vote. Shame on you.”
West said if legislators really cared about children, they’d be passing common-sense gun laws to protect them.
Firearms are now the No. 1 cause of death for children in the United States, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.
“What does the drag queen have against a gun?” West asked. “This is just getting to me. This is a wild west. This is the crazy south.”
West said the bill, which could impact trans Floridians as well as drag queens, is misplaced, when events that do sexualize children or expose them to sexual situations are not being addressed.
“What about Hooters? What about beauty pageants? They're doing the makeup, the mockery, all of a sudden, your little 6-year-old is now looking like she's 24 years old," West said. "See, these are wrong.”
A companion bill is also making its way through the Florida House. If passed, both will head to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk, where LGBTQ+ advocates expect they will be signed into law.
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