Metro Weekly

Pride Parade Canceled Over Fear of Florida Anti-Drag Law

A Florida city canceled its Pride parade and imposed higher age restrictions for attendees to comply with a law banning drag performances.

A Pride parade – Photo: Mercedes Mehling, via Unsplash,

Officials in a Florida city canceled the region’s annual Pride parade. They restricted access to Pride-related events to people over the age of 21, due to fears that organizers might be penalized under an anti-drag bill that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign into law.

The Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast canceled the parade, which had been scheduled for Saturday, April 22, and scaled back admission to the annual Pridefest, in Port St. Lucie, Florida, in response to the “Protection of Children” bill, reports Treasure Coast Newspapers.

The bill is designed to block establishments from allowing children to view any “adult live performance,” defined as any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience which…depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities…lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”

Violators of the law can potentially have their license to serve liquor yanked. 

While defenders of drag shows argue that they are not inherently sexual, the fact that some shows are more risqué has led anti-LGBTQ opponents to deem the entire art form inappropriate for children and potentially problematic.

And the possible presence of drag queens in public led organizers to cancel the parade, which always had been open to people of all ages. Organizers also restricted admission to Pridefest events based on a separate law prohibiting the sale of alcohol to those under the age of 21.

“The city has decided that with the likelihood that the Governor will sign the latest bill into effect this evening, that we will need to be on the side of caution and has required us to make this necessary change,” Pride of the Treasure Coast wrote on its Facebook page. “We are obviously upset and disheartened that it has come to this.

“We also regret to announce that we will have to cancel our plans to bring back our beloved parade. We hope that everyone understands that this is definitely not what we wanted at all and are working with the city to assure our safety as well as produce a positive event.”

Ahead of Pridefest, the city of Port St. Lucie, which issued the permits, warned organizers to increase the age requirement for admission and eliminate the Youth Pride and Robotics Team booths appealing to youth.

Under the law, any person or entity that issues a permit to an “adult live performance” that might be attended by children can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a fine and potentially up to a year in jail.

“We are doing what is required of us. We did not make this choice,” Jack Waldroup, the president of Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast, told Treasure Coast Newspapers ahead of Pridefest. 

Organizers agreed to issue refunds of the $5-per-person admission fee to any people, including families with children, who paid in advance. 

Port St. Lucie officials warned that if DeSantis signed the bill into law over the weekend and it took effect immediately, they likely would have had to cancel some performances at the last minute due to fear of running afoul of the law, which would have further hampered the event’s success.

City Attorney James Stokes also warned in a memo that the MidFlorida Credit Union Event Center, which was hosting Pride-themed events, could have lost its license — as several other venues have — if state authorities launched an investigation and found that even one minor had been present during a drag performance.

Some parents believe that the law usurps their parental rights, including the right to determine what content their children are exposed to, and whether they are emotionally mature enough to attend.

“Pride of the Treasure Coast is our favorite family event,” Shonda Rivas, a mother of two from Fort Pierce, told Treasure Coast Newspapers. “Our 16-year-old is angry and our 11-year-old is disappointed. The look on their faces was devastating.”

Noelia Rodriguez, a mother of three daughters, noted she and her children have been attending Pride events in the city since moving to the Treasure Coast in 2008. 

“This angers me so much because kids deserve to go to be free and feel comfortable and represent who they want to be and not be judged,” Rodriguez said.

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