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DeSantis attempts to revoke Miami hotel's liquor license over drag show

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration filed a complaint against the Hyatt Regency Miami hotel, citing a 1947 state Supreme Court case on lewdness.
Image: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on March 10, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on FridayScott Olson / Getty Images

The administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking to revoke the liquor license of a Miami hotel for holding a Christmas-themed drag show in the presence of children.

“A Drag Queen Christmas” was held Dec. 27 at the Hyatt Regency Miami hotel as a part of a larger holiday-themed drag show tour. The tour featured several stars from Emmy-winning competition show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and took place across 36 U.S. cities. Minors were permitted if they were accompanied by an adult.

In a 17-page complaint filed Tuesday with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which the department shared with NBC News, the DeSantis administration argued that the hotel violated Florida statutes on lewdness by hosting the show.

The complaint cites a 1947 state Supreme Court case that found “men impersonating women” constitutes a public nuisance. It also argues that the hotel exposed children to “simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays.”

“The nature of the Show’s performance, particularly when conducted in the presence of young children, corrupts the public morals and outrages the sense of public decency,” the complaint said. 

Amir Blattner, the general manager for Hyatt Regency Miami, said in a statement that the hotel is reviewing the complaint and its "liquor license remains in effect."

The hosts of “A Drag Queen Christmas” — “RuPaul's Drag Race” stars Trinity the Tuck and Nina West — did not immediately respond to NBC News’ requests for comment.

Trinity the Tuck appeared to address the complaint on social media Tuesday night, writing on Instagram: "If you are not as outraged as the rest in the community then you aren’t really an ally!"

"This is much more than a ban on drag," she wrote. "It’s a disguise to suppress the rights of trans people."

Nina West called the complaint "absolutely absurd" in an Instagram story shared Wednesday.

The complaint against the Hyatt Regency Miami is the third the DeSantis administration has filed against a Florida venue for hosting a drag show, and it is the second filed against a venue for hosting "A Drag Queen Christmas."

In July, the administration filed a similar complaint against Miami restaurant R House, citing the same 1947 state Supreme Court case. And last month, the administration filed a complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation for hosting the Christmas-themed drag event.

"Sexually explicit content is not appropriate to display to children and doing so violates Florida law," Bryan Griffin, a press secretary for the governor, said in a statement. "Governor DeSantis stands up for the innocence of children in the classroom and throughout Florida."

The efforts by the DeSantis administration come as other Republican lawmakers across the country aim to restrict the centuries-old art form.

So far this year, lawmakers in at least 16 states, including Florida, have proposed legislation that would restrict drag performances, largely banning them in the presence of minors, according to an NBC News analysis. Many of the bills would fine repeat violators thousands of dollars, and some would include prison sentences.

Tennessee is the only state to pass such a law so far. This month, the state's Republican governor, Bill Lee, signed a measure banning "adult cabaret entertainment" on public property or in locations where it can be viewed by minors. Performers who violate the law multiple times can be charged with a felony and sent to prison for up to six years.

Those in favor of bills restricting where and in front of whom drag performances can take place argue, like the DeSantis administration, that these measures are necessary to safeguard children against exposure to inappropriate entertainment.

Critics say these bills unfairly target the art form, which has deep ties to the LGBTQ community, and violate the constitutional rights of free speech and free expression.

Former Florida state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a gay Democrat who has been an outspoken critic of the DeSantis administration, described efforts to restrict drag performances as part of "an ongoing effort to marginalize LGBTQ people and their allies."

"These manufactured moral panics, they're designed to distract us from real issues," said Smith, who is now a special projects manager at LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida. "The same politicians that are peddling false hysteria about drag queens and immigrants and LGBTQ people in schools, they have failed to solve real problems that are ailing Floridians."

Including legislation that would limit drag, state legislators across the country have introduced so far this year more than 400 bills that target LGBTQ rights, including 10 such bills in Florida, according to a tally by the American Civil Liberties Union.