Florida Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican, on Wednesday fervently defended a bill he’s sponsoring to criminalize “adult live performances” in front of children.
“If it means erasing a community because you have to target children, then damn right, we ought to do it,” he said on the floor of the state House.
Fine acknowledged that the legislation might criminalize the work of some of the state’s drag performers, many of whom have deep ties to the LGBTQ community. And if the bill becomes law, it might also criminalize the work of a Floridian he neglected to mention: his wife.
Wendy Fine is co-hosting an annual gala Saturday, which she has previously performed in, to raise money for a children’s charity, Spring Forward for Autism, as the local news site The Space Coast Rocket first reported. The gala will take place at the Hilton Melbourne hotel in Melbourne, about an hour east of Orlando.
It will be “an evening filled with sultry performers,” according to the nonprofit group’s website, which lists Randy Fine as one of the gala’s main sponsors. Images and videos on social media of past years’ events show women — one of whom appears to be Fine’s wife, who is tagged in the photos — posing and dancing in lingerie and revealing costumes.
Such performances could be considered illegal under the legislation Fine introduced this year, which seeks to criminalize “adult live performances” in the presence of children.
The bill’s text defines “adult live performance” as “any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience which, in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities.”
Nothing on the organization’s website or the event invitation indicates that the gala excludes minors, and a toddler can be seen in a video from last year’s event.
Susan Belcher, the founder and president of Spring Forward for Autism, who is co-hosting Saturday’s gala with Wendy Fine, did not return calls for comment.
Randy Fine and other proponents of the “adult live performance” measure argue that it is necessary to protect children from obscene content. Critics see it as a way to unfairly target drag performances.
Republican legislators in more than a dozen other states have introduced similar bills to restrict the art form this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Last month, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed into law a first-of-its kind measure that would criminalize some drag performances in the state. A judge last month temporarily blocked the measure, which had been set to take effect April 1.
As images of Wendy Fine at the gala’s past events circulated on social media, some accused her and her husband of hypocrisy.
“‘Rules for thee, not for me,’” a user wrote on Twitter. “So it was ok for Randy Fine’s wife to participate in a sexually charged burlesque show with underage kids in attendance, but drag time story time is just too much. Sick of these goddamned hypocrites.”
When NBC News called Wendy Fine seeking comment, she said she was dialing in her husband, who could then be heard telling her, “Just hang up.” Neither Fine nor his wife responded to subsequent requests for comment.
Randy Fine is not the only Florida Republican seeking to restrict drag performances in the state. Several other legislators have introduced bills to do so, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has sought to revoke the liquor licenses of at least three businesses that have hosted drag shows in recent months.