Ten of the Weirdest Things Florida Has Banned

Florida has a well-earned reputation for being a lawless swamp. But let's give credit where credit is due: In its 172-year history, the Sunshine State has seen fit to regulate a few things, including some truly bizarre bans.

Here are some of the weirdest activities and products that have run afoul of state lawmakers over the years:

1. Surfing. Long before surfing became a multibillion-dollar industry, the sport's rise struck fear in the hearts of local government stiffs. South Florida surfers of the '50s and '60s were a rowdy bunch who went around doing things like mooning people and having food fights. They needed to be stopped. The town of Palm Beach banned surfing in 1964. Riviera Beach and North Palm Beach soon followed suit, with the latter making it illegal to even own a board. The bans were struck down in 1970, but only after the issue made it all the way to the state Supreme Court.

2. Cohabitation. If Mom’s disapproval couldn’t stop you from living in sin, maybe a second-degree misdemeanor would do the trick. For decades, more liberal-minded legislators tried and failed to repeal the 1868 state law before finally succeeding last year. Five conservative Republicans voted to keep it even in 2016.

3. Computers. Sometimes, Florida lawmakers aren't prudes; they're just very bad at writing legislation. In this case, Tally politicians were trying to ban internet cafés, but, Florida being Florida, the 2013 law was so poorly worded that there was concern it effectively outlawed all smartphones and computers, including the ones legislators used to craft the regulation.

4. "Unnatural acts." State law forbids "unnatural and lascivious acts" with another person. The law, which remains on the books, is absurdly vague, but there is this helpful pointer: "A mother’s breastfeeding of her baby does not under any circumstance violate this section.”

5. Pickup trucks. Coral Gables banned the vehicle in the '60s and stubbornly defended the rule for decades, even as doing so made it a national punch line. A new era of pickup freedom came in 2012, when the issue was put to voters to decide.

Ten of the Weirdest Things Florida Has Banned
Photo by George Martinez

6. Thongs. In 1995, a battle over nudity on a Brevard County public beach led commissioners to pass an ordinance banning it altogether. The rule didn't stop there: It also forbade swimsuits that didn't cover the rear, and male genitals ''in a discernibly turgid state,'' even if covered, were not allowed.

7. Dyeing animals. To the dismay of folks who do this sort of thing for fun, the Sunshine State outlawed dyeing animals in the '60s. The idea was to end the Easter practice of dyeing chicks and bunnies, which were often abandoned once the colors wore off. But after a complaint from a dog groomer who wanted in on dyeing contests, legislators in 2012 repealed the ban, with Gov. Rick Scott spouting some nonsense about his grandpa giving him chicks when he was a kid. An outcry followed, and in 2013 the ban was reinstated, but with a loophole allowing dog dyeing.

8. Sex with porcupines. A pair of Russian tourists supposedly decided to test this state law in 2009 and wound up in the hospital. A 2010 U.S. Senate candidate, Bobbie Bean, vowed to repeal it. He said it was "useless." The Russians might beg to differ.

Ten of the Weirdest Things Florida Has Banned
Photo by Giulio Sciorio

9.  Lap dances. A Tampa ordinance requiring six feet between dancers and customers effectively banished lap dances. The city council member who pushed the 1999 measure, Bob Buckhorn, has since decided lap dancing isn't such a big deal, and though the ban remains on the books, it's not considered a high priority for police.

10. Scantily clad hot-dog vendors. In the '90s, South Florida was beset by a bizarre trend: nearly naked women selling hot dogs on the streets. Police claimed the distraction was causing car crashes; parents worried it was corrupting children. It was enough of an issue that several municipalities passed laws designed to run the vendors out of town. Among them was a Palm Beach County ordinance requiring those in pasties and thongs to stand behind a four-foot-tall screen.

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