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The administration of Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has been called out for sending letters to several bars and venues that had planned holiday drag shows that threatened the establishment's liquor licenses.
On Wednesday, the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation sent one of those letters to the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation, according to the news site Florida Politics.
The letter referenced an event organized by the organization that night called "A Drag Queen Christmas," featuring noted drag performers Trinity the Tuck, Heidi N Closet, Jasmine Kennedie, Silky Ganache, and Jimbo, along with out pop singer and YouTube personality Todrick Hall.
"To avoid action being taken against your [liquor] license, it is your obligation to ensure that minors are prohibited from attending the Drag Fans drag show," Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Melanie Griffin wrote in the letter. "If minors are allowed to attend this drag show, the Department will take any and all actions available to ensure that you do not pose a threat to minors in the future."
The letter stated that the administration believes the show is sexually explicit. Florida Politics notes that some of the venues have an 18+ advisory warning for the shows.
DeSantis and his administration have a significant anti-LGBTQ+ record. The governor signed the state's "don't say gay" bill into law in March, and his former press secretary openly called LGBTQ+ and their allies "groomers."
Orlando Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani condemned the letter. The lawmaker said DeSantis and his administration is looking to fearmonger over a fake controversy that targets LGBTQ+ people.
"DBPR could spend their time cracking down on human trafficking taking place in Florida hotel rooms. Instead they're pursuing a homophobic agenda in targeting drag shows," Eskamani said, according to Florida Politics. "It's a waste of money, time and an attempt to create political outrage when none has existed before. In fact, this specific drag show has been taking place for eight years -- and no harm has been caused."
It's the latest attack on drag shows in Florida by the administration. The show, which also took place in other parts of the state, had already been targeted.
The department "is aware of multiple complaints about a sexually explicit performance marketed to children held in Fort Lauderdale on December 26. The Department is actively investigating this matter, including video footage and photographs from the event," tweeted DeSantis's press secretary Bryan Griffin. "Exposing children to sexually explicit activity is a crime in Florida, and such action violates the Department's licensing standards for operating a business and holding a liquor license."
That show in Ft. Lauderdale was disrupted by a protester.
Eskamani said parents should be the ones deciding if a drag performance was too mature for their kids.
"It's clear that Governor DeSantis practices an ideology of convenience. He preaches parental rights and freedom only when it's convenient to him," she said. "If you don't like drag shows, then don't go to one. Instead we see events getting canceled out of safety, and LGBTQ+ people living in fear. We'll continue to push back against these homophobic attacks and stand for freedom for all."
According to Florida Politics, a drag queen story hour was canceled in Orlando in October after the LGBT+ Center Orlando, which was organizing the event, received threats from neo-Nazi groups.
More than 140 drag shows have been protested against and threatened in the last year, a recent report by GLAAD found.