TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said this week that he would consider a proposal from a state lawmaker who wants to make it a felony to bring children to drag shows in the state.
The lawmaker’s proposal came in direct response to a drag show hosted at a bar in Dallas, Texas, in honor of Pride month. The bar and its attendees said Saturday’s show was a family-friendly event, but critics claim drag shows are inappropriate for minors.
“I will be proposing legislation to charge with a felony and terminate parental rights of any adult who brings a child to these perverted sex shows,” said Republican State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, from Howey-in-the-Hills, in a tweet.
Sabatini did not respond to an email asking for a comment on the proposed bill. But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed support at a press conference on Wednesday. “That is not something that children should be exposed to,” DeSantis said.
Joan Hepsworth, the owner of The Paperback Book Exchange in Port Richey, is not a fan of Sabatini’s proposal. The Paperback Book Exchange has hosted Drag Queen Story Hour for children in the past. Hepsworth said anyone was allowed to attend.
“People that had children that were exhibiting behaviors that would lead the parents to think they were going to be LGBTQ when they grew up, or people who had LGBTQ members in their families” were welcome, along with all others, Hepsworth said.
Now, Hepsworth feels that Florida is trying to “legislate hatred” in considering the criminalization of exposing minors to drag performances. “[That’s] what it feels like to me anyway,” Hepsworth said.
Hepsworth said she stopped the story hours after 10 months because her supporters and protestors got into fistfights outside of her store. “We had to stop doing it here because I didn’t want anybody to get hurt, from either side.”
She worried it would get even worse at the time. “I didn’t see where that was going to get any better because of the way the First Amendment is set up. They’re allowed to come out here and harass us and for us to protect ourselves put us in a position where we would end up getting arrested,” she said.