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Tampa Pride president worried about language in new senate bill aimed at "protecting kids"

Florida Capitol building
Posted at 10:10 PM, Apr 07, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. — For Tampa Pride President Carrie West, underneath the fanfare and fun of the yearly Pride festivities is a deeper meaning.

"This is an opportunity to just be who you are," he said, "That's so important to find out that there's a whole world out there that really cares about you and that you are normal."

But it's an environment that West told ABC Action News he now fears is in jeopardy because of a new bill working its way through the state legislature.

On its face, Senate Bill 1438 or the "Protection of Children" bill aims to keep someone from "knowingly admitting a child to an adult live performance."

Those who break the law face fines and jail time and venues could possibly lose their license to serve drinks and food and provide lodging.

"We already have those laws. Why keep adding laws to the books of Florida when we already have them?" said West.

SB1438 by ABC Action News on Scribd

But West told us his biggest concern comes from the bill's definition of an "adult live performance."

According to the bill, the performance must "simulate or depict nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, specific sexual activities or lewd conduct."

But it goes on to say that performances that are "shameful," of no serious "value" to the child, or that are "patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community of the state" can also fall into violation of the law.

West feels that some of these definitions are vague and subjective.

And because a drag show was used as an example of a violation in a recent legislative analysis of this bill, he worries that Tampa Pride events could be impacted if it passes.

Sb 1438 Fiscal Impact by ABC Action News on Scribd

He said he'd like lawmakers to focus on these community issues instead.

"I want the work to be done for insurance's sake, for food, for going through there and getting housing and also working for the state to help make it a better state," he said.

We also reached out to State Senator Clay Yarborough, who sponsored the bill, for some clarity on the concerns around it.

He released the following statement:

“The bill does not ban any business or any public entity from hosting any kind of event or performance, including a public parade. Unless an entity is planning to admit children to a live event that would include nudity, sexual conduct, or lewd exposure, there should be no cause for distress about the provisions of this bill. It is a concern for me and other parents and constituents when you have any activity or venue where children are being exposed to nudity and lewd conduct. We are trying to protect children who cannot un-see, un-hear, or un-experience things they are exposed to.

In our bill, we define an adult live performance consistent with standards approved by the supreme court to determine whether or not speech is considered obscene and provide penalties if a business admits a child to a live performance that contains such activities. The language we added Tuesday states that a governmental entity cannot issue a permit for a performance that would include the same activities prohibited by the bill if a child is present. Our children are highly valued, and parents want to make sure they are protected.

Parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit, and government intervention should be a last resort. However, as lawmakers, we have a responsibility to protect children from viewing lewd conduct that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in our communities. Therefore, we have to take it seriously when a business or a government entity in our state knowingly admits children to view performances meant for an adult audience.”