Drag artists, allies march for LGBTQ+ rights in Tallahassee

Graphic via Darcel Stevens’ Facebook.

TALLAHASSEE | Drag entertainers from across the state convened at the Capitol April 25 to protest anti-LGBTQ+ legislation backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature’s Republican supermajority.

Attendees arrived in Tallahassee from Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Kissimmee, Lakeland, Melbourne, Miami, Naples, Orlando, Pensacola, Port St. Lucie, Sanford, St. Petersburg, Tampa and West Palm Beach. Equality Florida anticipated in a press release “that this showing of solidarity will be the largest gathering of its kind in Florida’s history.”

The march was organized by Orlando-based activist and entertainer Darcel Stevens. It follows several high-profile and anti-LGBTQ+ actions taken by Republicans this legislative session, with more expected.

On April 19, the Florida Board of Education approved the expansion of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law, which will limit discussions of LGBTQ+ identity through high school. Lawmakers also advanced anti-trans legislation targeting gender-affirming care and more while sending an anti-drag bill to DeSantis’ desk.

“The current slate of anti-LGBTQIA+ laws being passed this session is cruel, unjust, full of hypocrisy and runs counter to the very values Republicans claim to uphold,” Stevens said in the press release.

“Under the false pretense of wanting to protect children, lawmakers are content to retaliate by destroying parental freedom and businesses’ financial livelihoods — all while ignoring the real issues affecting Floridians like affordable housing, healthcare, and the soaring cost of living,” she added.

It’s something Central Florida and Tampa Bay participants have spoken out against for nearly two months. They’ve held benefit shows, sold T-shirts and participated in rallies to fund their trips to Tallahassee. View a full list of city coordinators below via Stevens’ social media:

The protest will officially begin at 1 p.m. at Cascades Park. Stevens and other leaders are expected to speak before marching to the Capitol steps.

At 2 p.m., Florida Sens. Linda Stewart and Shevrin Jones will join them, as will Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani, Miami drag legend Tiffany Arieagus and Senate candidate Carlos Guillermo Smith, a former state representative. He shared photos below via social media:

“Event organizers hope to educate the public about the rich history of drag as a form of cultural artistic expression suitable for all ages while also warning about potentially dire unintended economic consequences,” Equality Florida shared. “Anything from local brunches, theatrical productions such as Shakespeare or the ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ musical, to major concerts featuring performers like Madonna or Sam Smith could all be canceled by venues who fear elements of drag will be in violation of the law.”

“Drag Queens are not just entertainers, we’re valued contributors to society — small business owners, parents, teachers, nurses, first responders and much more,” Stevens said.

“Floridians know we pose no threat. That’s why we’re united here using our powerful collective voices to encourage political activism, register voters, and resist policies that harm us and the brothers and sisters in our LGBTQIA+ community,” she concluded. “We are not going anywhere, we will not be silent, we will rise up and we will fight back.”

For more information about Equality Florida and its fight against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, visit EQFL.org.

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