Florida drag ban bill could stop Rocky Horror Picture Show from ever being performed

A photoshopped image of Tim Curry in the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Florida flag.

Live performances of Hair The Musical or The Rocky Horror Picture Show could be outlawed in Florida if proposed anti-drag legislation becomes law.

Florida Senate Bill 1438, also known as the Protection of Children law – is so vaguely worded, that even Republicans have admitted it could lead to mass censorship of beloved live performances.

Proposed by Republican senators Clay Yarborough and Keith Perry, the bill attempts to prohibit what it vaguely describes as “adult live performances” and the establishments that host them.

If passed, family-friendly establishments that “admits a child to an adult live performance” would potentially have their licence suspended and fined up to $5,000 (£4,000) for a first violation.

Government entities would also be forbidden from issuing permits for Pride celebrations. Those found in violation of the proposed law would be charged with a misdemeanour.

The bill considers adult live performances as “any show, exhibition or other presentation in front of a live audience which, in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or specific sexual activities.”

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This means that not only would drag, most forms of pantomime and various Shakespeare performances become illegal at family-friendly venues but also live showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show would be banned.

The bill is so vague, in fact, that Yarborough admitted that it would extend to most live performances and that governmental bodies would investigate if complaints were raised.

“Parents have a right to raise their child,” he said during a legislative hearing. “As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to protect children from viewing lewd conduct that is potentially offensive to prevailing standards in our communities.

“Therefore, we have to take it seriously when a business knowingly admits children to view performances meant for adult audiences.”

While there is no actual evidence to suggest that family-friendly drag performances or live pantomimes are harmful to children, plenty of studies have proved that bills such as this motivate anti-drag attacks – verbal and physical.

Anti-drag attacks in the US skyrocketed to 141 across 2022 according to findings by LGBTQ+ not-for-profit organisation GLAAD.

These included armed demonstrations against family-friendly drag performers, as well as cases of harassment or violence.

The study didn’t factor in the November 2022 Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs where five people were killed at a drag performance.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida condemned the vote to pass the bill on 21 March.

ACLU Florida legislative director, Kara Gross, said: “This harmful bill effectively revokes the rights of parents to decide what content is appropriate for their own families, even their own teenagers.

“It gives politicians, not parents, the authority over how to raise their children and what forms of expression they are allowed to view.

“It even goes as far as to weaponise state agencies with the power to politically target LGBTQ+-friendly businesses… just like book bans and curriculum censorship, restricting drag performances are part of an ongoing effort to marginalise the LGBTQ+ community.

“Politicians are imposing their personal beliefs on Floridians.”