Tallahassee, Fla. – Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 1438 (SB 1438), a bill that grants state agencies the power to politically target LGBTQ+ friendly businesses by giving the Department of Business and Professional Regulation discretionary authority to fine, revoke liquor licenses, and even shut down establishments. Additionally, it makes it a crime to admit young people to any performance, exhibit, play, or show that the state deems inappropriate, even if the child’s own parents think it is appropriate for their family.
The ACLU of Florida opposes this bill and its companion bill, House Bill 1423.
Kara Gross, ACLU of Florida’s legislative director and senior policy counsel, responded to yesterday’s vote with the following:
“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.
“SB 1438 is a blatant attempt to erase drag performers and silence the LGBTQ+ community. It even goes so far as to weaponize state agencies with the power to politically target LGBTQ+ friendly businesses by giving the Department of Business and Professional Regulation discretionary authority to fine, revoke liquor licenses, and even shut down establishments. Just like book bans and curriculum censorship, restricting drag performances are part of an ongoing effort to marginalize the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.
“This heavy-handed approach to government regulation will have a broader chilling effect on all businesses and venues, as it is unclear from the vaguely worded bill whether it will also apply to plays, movies, music performances, art exhibits and other forms of expression that the state may subjectively deem inappropriate. Businesses may end up self-censoring rather than running afoul of the law and risk losing their license or becoming entangled with the criminal justice system.
“Politicians are imposing their personal beliefs on Floridians by punishing businesses that support the LGBTQ+ community. This is a far cry from the ‘Free state of Florida’ that Governor DeSantis is claiming to promote.”