Wilton Manors, Florida, a renowned LGBTQ+-inclusive town, has succumbed to the anti-LGBTQ+ agenda of Governor Ron DeSantis. The city commission recently passed a resolution stating that licenses for this year’s Pride march should anticipate compliance with a state measure aiming to prohibit public drag acts. The bill, S.B. 1438, which has cleared the legislature and is expected to be signed by DeSantis, prohibits government agencies from granting permits to groups that stage “adult live performances” in the presence of children. Although not explicitly naming drag, similar legislation in other states has targeted drag performances and events like drag queen story hours, labeling them as sexually explicit adult entertainment.
Critics argue that the law represents an extreme overreach of governmental power. Numerous individuals voiced their opposition to the measure before the city commission, urging them to disregard it. Speakers emphasized that drag performers are not criminals but rather entertainers who play important roles in their culture. While the commission showed compassion for the LGBTQ+ community, they ultimately voted against their interests due to potential repercussions, as the governor has the authority to dismiss officials who do not enforce state legislation. Noncompliance may result in the commission being replaced entirely by DeSantis appointees.
Mayor Scott Newton affirmed the city’s commitment to having drag queens and members of the transgender community participate in the Pride march, stating that their presence will not change. Jeff Stirling, CEO of Stonewall Pride, expressed the organization’s determination to fight against injustice and their hope of including at least one parade float with drag artists, as waving to the crowd alone would not be considered a performance.
Wilton Manors is not the only city in Florida grappling with the consequences of this proposed law. Port St. Lucie, anticipating DeSantis signing the bill, canceled its Pride Parade earlier in April. DeSantis has consistently supported anti-LGBTQ+ laws, claiming to protect children from sexualization. His measures include book bans and the notorious Don’t Say Gay statute. Recently, he approved legislation that enables physicians to discriminate against LGBTQ+ patients.
DeSantis, a potential presidential candidate for 2024, has built his political career by demonizing people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. His relentless assault on LGBTQ+ youth rights in Florida has led over half of LGBTQ+ parents to contemplate leaving the state, according to the Williams Institute. Additionally, he has faced criticism for his focus on punishing Disney for opposing his Don’t Say Gay Law. Disney is suing him, and his cultural wars and personal pride have resulted in the departure of funders and supporters who question his priorities and concern for the well-being of Floridians.