MIAMI – Gov. Ron DeSantis has defended parental rights during the pandemic saying it should be up to them whether or not their children should abide by public health measures. But when videos showed children at a drag queen show, parental rights didn’t come to mind.
Attorney Nicole Alvarez is among the critics who have called out DeSantis over the contradiction. R House, a restaurant and lounge, has a gallery for art exhibits and a stage for shows, in Miami’s Wynwood. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the stage features the “Drag Extravaganza.”
DeSantis said he is targeting R House to protect the children, but some parents like Alvarez, who view the drag shows as a creative form of artistic expression said that’s not his call.
“If I choose to bring my daughter to a drag show, that the business being will be the one penalized for my choice. I mean, I really don’t see the correlation,” Alvarez said, adding DeSantis “has always expressed that parents have a right to choose for their children, that private businesses have a right to conduct business as they see fit. Honestly, this is an overreach.”
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation threatened to revoke R House’s liquor license for corrupting “the public morals.” DeSantis cited the children’s menu.
“We want to make sure that we have a state and that we have communities where kids can be kids,” the governor said this week.
While federal public health officials recommended enforcing face masks and COVID-19 vaccines, DeSantis said mandates were not going to happen in Florida. He also opposed limitations on businesses during the pandemic.
“Together we have made Florida the freest state in these United States,” DeSantis said during his State of the State address, which kicked off the 2022 legislative session in Tallahassee. “While so many around the country have consigned the people’s rights to the graveyard, Florida has stood as freedom’s vanguard.”
While wooing America’s far right, DeSantis went on to sign a bill that limited public education related to gender identity or sexual orientation, and he banned transgender girls from playing school sports. Alvarez said DeSantis just doesn’t make any sense.
“It is only free for some,” Alvarez said.
Bryan Griffin, a spokesman for DeSantis released a statement describing the drag show as “sexually explicit” and categorizing the criticism as likely coming from the political opposition.
“I’d ask you in return, who is defending children being at sexually explicit drag shows? Likely, we are talking about political opponents, not parents. Most parents (in fact, most of society) agree that children should not be sexualized. Parents are not the subject of this complaint – it is the restaurant that is marketing sexually-explicit dancing to children, as promoted on their kid’s menu. And, as the governor said, that’s not appropriate and the State of Florida will not be facilitating that,” the statement read.
Alex Fernandez, who performs at R House under the stage name Maritrini, said the R House drag shows are a form of artistic expression and are not sexually explicit.
State officials also referred to the show as a nuisance.
“They are talented dancers. They are talented actors and actresses. For them to be called a nuisance and simplify their artform, it’s an insult,” Alvarez said
Alison Davis, who was visiting Wynwood from Atlanta, Georgia, said maybe the business owners can impose age restrictions to avoid the harassment.
R House owners hired an attorney to help them deal with the state officials.
“We are hopeful that Governor DeSantis, a vociferous supporter and champion of Florida’s hospitality industry and small businesses, will see this as what it is, a misunderstanding, and that the matter will be resolved positively and promptly,” the business owners said in a statement.
The governor has been quoted as stating, “In Florida we stand up for the rights of parents.”
The governor advocated for parents who did not want their children to wear masks at school citing parental rights: “Florida Parents Are Free to Choose.”
The “Parental Rights in Education” legislation states: “Reinforce fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing & control of their children.”
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Local 10 News Reporter Christian De La Rosa contributed to this report.