MIAMI – Gov. Ron DeSantis has defended parents’ rights during the pandemic, saying it should be up to them whether or not their children follow public health measures. But when videos show kids at a drag queen show, parental rights don’t come to mind.
Attorney Nicole Alvarez is among the critics who called out DeSantis for the controversy. R house, a restaurant and lounge, features an art exhibit gallery and performance stage in Miami’s Wynwood. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the stage features a “Drag Extravaganza”.
DeSantis said he targeted the R house to protect the kids, but some parents like Alvarez, who see drag shows as a creative form of artistic expression, said it wasn’t his decision.
“If I choose to take my daughter to a drag show, this business entity will be punished for my choice. I mean, I really don’t see the connection,” Alvarez said, adding that DeSantis “has always expressed that parents have the right to choose for their children, that private businesses have the right to do business as they see fit. Honestly, that’s an exaggeration.”
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has threatened to revoke R House’s liquor license for corrupting “public morals.” DeSantis cited the children’s menu.
While federal public health officials have recommended the implementation of face masks and vaccines against COVID-19, DeSantis said the mandates won’t happen in Florida. He also opposed restrictions on business during the pandemic.
“Together, we have made Florida the freest state in these United States,” DeSantis said during his State of the State address that kicked off the 2022 legislative session in Tallahassee. “While so many across the country have consigned human rights to the graveyard, Florida stands as the vanguard of freedom.”
While courting America’s far right, DeSantis went on to sign a bill that restricts public education related to gender identity or sexual orientation and bans transgender girls from playing school sports. Alvarez said DeSantis just doesn’t make sense.
“It’s only free for some,” Alvarez said.
Brian Griffin, a spokesman for DeSantis, released a statement describing the drag show as “blatantly sexual” and categorizing the criticism as coming solely from the political opposition.
“The parents are not subject to this complaint,” Griffin wrote. “This is the restaurant that advertises a sexually explicit dance for children as advertised on the children’s menu. And as the governor said, that’s not appropriate, and the state of Florida is not going to facilitate that.
Alex Fernandez, who performs at R House under the stage name Maritrini, said that R House’s drag shows are a form of artistic expression and are not sexually explicit.
Government officials also cited the show as a nuisance.
“They are talented dancers. They are talented actors and actresses. For them to be called bothers and to simplify their art form is an insult,” Alvarez said
Alison Davis, who was visiting Wynwood from Atlanta, Georgia, said maybe business owners could impose age restrictions to avoid harassment.
The owners of R House have hired a lawyer to help them deal with government officials.
“We hope that Governor DeSantis, a vocal supporter and advocate for Florida’s hospitality industry and small businesses, will see this as a misunderstanding, and that the matter will be resolved positively and quickly,” the business owners said in a statement.
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Local 10 News reporter Christian De La Rosa contributed to this report.
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