Florida Passes Bill Raising Minimum Age for Strippers to 21

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Citing anti-human trafficking measures, the state legislature of Florida has adopted a bill requiring strippers to be at least 21 years of age in order to dance at adult venues. Both chambers of the legislature, near unanimously, passed the bill.

House Bill (HB) 7063 would broadly apply to businesses that fall under the state's definition of adult entertainment, including strip clubs, burlesque shows, adult bookstores and adult theaters.

Obscenity statutes in Florida permit people 18 years of age and above to perform and be employed at these types of businesses. 

The bill would drastically change this. Adult venue staffers aged 18 to 20 would not face penalties or sanctions from the state. But, HB 7063 would make it a second-degree felony to employ or permit someone under 21 to work at these businesses.

Penalties include up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 for "an owner, a manager, an employee, or a contractor of an adult entertainment establishment" who allows a prohibited individual to reveal breasts, buttocks, or genitals.

If the prohibited person is clothed, the club owner could be charged with a misdemeanor, face up to a year in jail, and could potentially pay a fine of up to $1,000.

Fake identification cards also don't shield owners from potential criminal liability. Note this provision in the enrolled version of the bill:

"An owner, a manager, an employee, or a contractor of an adult entertainment establishment who permits a person to perform as an entertainer or work in any capacity for the establishment shall carefully check the person's driver license or identification card issued by this state or another state of the United States, a passport, or a United States Uniformed Services identification card presented by the person and act in good faith and in reliance upon the representation and appearance of the person in the belief that the person is 21 years of age or older.

For purposes of this section, a person's ignorance of another person's age or a person's misrepresentation of his or her age may not be raised as a defense in a prosecution for a violation of this section. 

This places significant liability on the operators of a strip club. 

Republican and Democratic lawmakers overwhelmingly endorsed the bill. It is currently engrossed and is expected to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

Democratic state Rep. Michele Rayner, who voted for the bill, said that lawmakers are trying to "legislate values," reports the News Service of Florida, a wire service, via NBC Miami.

"This is just another way for women to be controlled,” said Rayner.

Only three members of the House voted against the measure—all three women and Democrats.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, a senior editor for the libertarian-leaning outlet Reason, notes that the measure is similar to another bill adopted in Texas in 2021 that prohibits individuals under 21 years from working in strip clubs.

HB 7063 is one measure that rounds out the legislative session in Florida. First Amendment concerns abound, especially with this bill and the adoption of a sweeping age verification measure that bans social media use for minors and requires age-gating for porn.

DeSantis is expected to sign the age verification bill, House Bill 3, into law as well.

HB 7063 enters force on July 1, 2024, if signed into law.