(NEW YORK)— In response to news that Drag Story Hour is shutting down its Miami chapter due to what the organization has assessed to be an unsafe environment for its live events resulting from anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Florida, PEN America issued the following statement from William Johnson, director of the PEN Across America initiative:

“We are deeply saddened to hear that Drag Story Hour is closing its Miami chapter because they feel it is no longer safe for them to continue their programming. It’s a tragedy for free expression and the inclusive and free sharing of ideas. It was also sadly predictable. Make no mistake. This is a direct result of the DeSantis Administration’s censorious attacks on the speech and lives of LGBTQ people in the state of Florida. Florida’s state-endorsed censorship disrupts the power of art to cultivate connection and unjustly vilifies the LGBTQ community. Free expression in Florida is under threat—and the impact won’t just remain there. Everyone who cares about free expression in the United States must stand now to defend it in Florida.”

According to an announcement posted on Instagram, the group said: “Florida’s six expressly anti-LGBTQ bills has made it an unsafe place for our chapter directors to live and carry out events. Demonizing LGBTQ people has become the center of legislation in Florida and has impacted our work.”

On June 23, A U.S. judge blocked a new Florida law restricting drag performances, the third time in the month that federal courts have enjoined laws backed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that concern gender or LGBTQ matters.

The group’s Miami chapter is one of 28 nationwide and four in other countries.

Last December, PEN America condemned the alarming spread of intimidation, harassment, and violence at protests organized by far-right and extremist groups against drag story hours and other drag shows across the country.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org

About PEN Across America

The PEN Across America initiative provides resources to mobilize PEN America communities nationwide to carry forward our mission to defend and celebrate free expression. Chapters in Miami/South Florida, Austin, Birmingham, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, the Piedmont Region of North Carolina, Tulsa, and elsewhere are organizing public forums to debate critical issues, hosting writers for literary conversations, conducting advocacy campaigns, offering workshops on media literacy, storytelling, and citizen journalism, and much more.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057