Megaplex coerced by new Florida state law to make furry convention 18+
On May 24th, Megaplex, a furry convention that has taken place in Florida for two decades, had announced that for the first time restricted attendance to those 18 and over only. This was done in response to a recently passed law, SB 1438, which expands the authority of the government to revoke business licenses and impose fines in response to situations where children are exposed to live performances deemed “problematic for general consumption”.
Many have raised concerns about recent changes in Florida legislation. After reviewing Florida SB 1438 it has been decided that for legal reasons and protection of our attendees, our venue, and the overall convention, Megaplex 2023 attendees must be 18 years of age at the time of registration pickup.
Megaplex has welcomed younger fandom members and their families since its inception and making this change was very difficult. The Code of Conduct has been updated to reflect this change and emails are going out to those affected.
While this change impacts the 2023 convention, it is unsure if this will have to continue for future years. It is our hope that this change is temporary and that we can welcome members of all ages back next year. With this in mind, the public decorum portion of the Code of Conduct as well as standards for programming, attire, and behavior in convention space will not be changing and will continue to be enforced as it has been in the past.
This decision has been a difficult one, but Megaplex has not forgotten about or abandoned our younger fandom members and is looking into options for events and activities to include all age ranges and their family members.
Many have also voiced concerns regarding CS/HB 1521. After legal review, it has been concluded that this does not affect us as our convention is held in a private venue. We are talking with the hotel about the possibility of offering gender neutral restrooms in the convention space. If we are able to offer this we will have them clearly marked on our convention map.
If you have any additional questions regarding any cancellations requested, please feel free to contact us at [our registration team email].
Megaplex; May 2023
The rule and the threat it has posed
The law in question deals with live performances before individuals who are under the age of 18 being too adult in nature. While parts of the law use words indicating salaciousness and sexual based content, there are elements within the newly applied rule that are more loose and open up an avenue of attack should individuals wish to bring the wrath of the state down upon groups they don’t care for.
“Adult live performance” means 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 as those terms are defined in s. 847.001, lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts when it:
1. Predominantly appeals to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest;
2. Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community of this state as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for the age of the child present; and
3. Taken as a whole, is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for the age of the child present.
-SB 1438 - Emphasis Added-
When it is noted in point two as a performance being patently offensive to the standard of the adult community of the state, it is not defined how such standards are determined. Because of this, such interpretations would more than likely be at the discretion of enforcement via the executive branch, currently headed by Ron DeSantis.
With DeSantis’s recent push of legislation against people who are within the LGBT+ community, along with individuals who hold similar views to the governor pushing to harass venues for PG performances of individuals dressed in drag reading stories to children, it can open the door for Megaplex to expose its venue space to fines and vital business license suspensions. Taking steps to only allow those 18 and over to attend should remove these risks and liabilities.
The bill CS/HB 1521 referenced in the announcement is a law concerning public restroom facilities and the state’s enforcement of maintaining their traditional segregation of such facilities by physical, and state defined at birth sex. It is one of the well known rounds of legislation implemented by the LGBT+ hostile government.
According to this announcement, their review of this law indicates it can only be applied to state facilities such as jails, schools, and etcetera. Private facilities such as the hotels and the convention venues cannot seem to be held to this standard, and so Megaplex does hope to implement gender neutral facilities for its gathering this year.
A hard decision with a stilled tongue
Furries were upset at the situation, and some were frustrated at what appears to be a capitulation by Megaplex. However, a furry lawyer by the name of Boozy Badger explained why it can be difficult for a non-profit organization such as Megaplex to make statements that vocally opposes legislation like this more openly.
While there is no blanket ban on a 501(c)(3) making statements about legislative actions, there is a risk inherent in it. A 501(c)(3) is barred from participating in political campaign activity -or- substantial legislative lobbying, at risk of losing nonprofit status.
The first [stipulation] is [relatively] easy [to understand]: don’t endorse candidates, don’t allow candidates to campaign at your event, don’t promote or discourage a platform. The second part is harder. What is substantial legislative advocacy/lobbying in the context of the organization? What meets that test?
The long and short is 501(c)(3) non-profits may feel they cannot speak on or against issues without risking the additional scrutiny [to their non-profit status]. And while they can speak about issues in an educational manner, there’s a line that they have to establish. Indeed, in most cases it’s important for them to consult with legal counsel before making statements about legislation, holding workshops, or otherwise holding educational sessions about it to make sure it won’t jeopardize the non-profit status.
And, in some situations, that review may end with “We can probably say X, but it’s safer not to.”