Republican states are fuming — and legislating — over drag performances

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“We’re not trying to beryllium anti-anybody, anti-trans, anti-anything, we’re conscionable trying to protect our kids,” said Bentley, who acknowledged astatine nan proceeding that schools expressed concerns that student performances mightiness beryllium targeted if costumes had exaggerated anatomical features aliases had definite types of singing and dancing. “We’re not trying to extremity plays. We’re not trying to extremity Peter Pan, aliases Tootsie, aliases immoderate of those things.”

Drag show restrictions person go a starring taste rumor during this year’s legislative sessions for nan correct and salient Republicans for illustration Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is group to present her party’s consequence to President Joe Biden’s State of nan Union reside connected Tuesday.

Lawmakers successful astatine slightest 8 states — including Arizona, South Carolina and Texas — introduced measures to artifact children from resistance shows astatine nan commencement of this year, according to PEN America, a free reside defense group. Many of nan measures would taxable educators, business owners, performers and parents to criminal prosecution and master sanctions for allowing children to position performances, galore of which person been nan focus of caller armed demonstrations.

Drag performers are not a regular beingness astatine schoolhouse events, contempt GOP uproar. Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, a Republican, reportedly petitioned nan authorities schoolhouse committee association for thief this week aft mediate schoolhouse students attended an arena that featured a resistance performance.

The bills often activity to categorize resistance shows nan aforesaid measurement arsenic definitive big entertainment, and sometimes see connection saying restrictions only use to “prurient” exhibitions pinch seductive intentions, aliases see nudity aliases definitive material. Several proposals would prohibit resistance performances aliases appearances successful schools, while different bills further modulate shows connected nationalist spot and successful backstage businesses.

Opponents reason that signing these measures into rule mightiness not only break law protections, but besides provoke a broader taste suppression of LGBTQ people.

“The extremity for galore of these lawmakers has been to frighten group astir what resistance performances are, and what kids are really being exposed to,” said Sarah Warbelow, nan ineligible head of nan Human Rights Campaign.

“Many of these bills fundamentally let backstage individuals to study a capacity to beryllium investigated oftentimes for violations of criminal law,” Warbelow said successful an interview. “That’s going to person a chilling effect connected resistance performances from Pride parades, to nan resistance queen communicative hr astatine nan section library, to assemblage campuses that mightiness person a resistance capacity arsenic portion of a Pride celebration.”

North Dakota’s House of Representatives past week approved a resistance show prohibition that would categorize repeated performances successful beforehand of children arsenic a felony offense, sending nan measurement to nan state Senate for consideration.

Bentley’s measure successful nan Arkansas House was approved by a committee connected Wednesday, one week aft nan authorities Senate signed off. Lawmakers backtracked connected Thursday, however, by filing an amendment that scrubs each “drag performance” mentions from nan proposal.

Sanders appeared eager to motion nan original measurement into law.

“This is not astir banning anything; it is astir protecting kids,” Sanders spokesperson Alexa Henning told POLITICO successful a statement, earlier nan authorities was amended. “We don’t fto kids smoke, portion alcohol, spell to portion clubs, aliases entree sexually definitive material, and nan Governor believes sexually definitive resistance shows are nary different. Only successful nan extremist left’s woke dystopia is it not due to protect kids.”

North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum’s agency declined to remark connected nan connection moving done his state’s legislature, but 1 of its apical Democrats is livid.

“It pisses maine off,” authorities House Minority Leader Josh Boschee said of nan bill.

“There aren’t parents coming guardant to opportunity location are each these resistance performances happening connected Main Street and we request to beryllium protected from them,” Boschee, who is gay, said successful an interview. “These are each concepts and ideas that are being taken from nan acheronian sides of nan internet.”

State Rep. Brandon Prichard, a recently elected Republican lawmaker who introduced North Dakota’s bill, is still assured nan measurement will triumph Senate approval.

“There is simply a clear way to triumph for nan bill,” Prichard said successful an interview. “The Senate is much blimpish than it has ever been successful North Dakota. And I deliberation that location is simply a earthy inclination successful North Dakota to work together pinch this bill.”

In South Carolina, nan projected “Defense of Children’s Innocence Act” explicitly bars schools and publically funded entities from utilizing payer dollars to supply a resistance show, and would let nan prosecution of anyone who allows a insignificant to position a resistance show pinch a felony punishable by up to 10 years successful situation and a maximum $5,000 fine.

“I don’t cognize erstwhile resistance shows became nan devil,” said Sherry East, president of nan South Carolina Education Association, successful an interview. “To my knowledge, I don’t cognize that schools are doing this. I’ve ne'er known of a schoolhouse to do this. The homophobic cognition from immoderate of our elected officials is rather concerning and disappointing.”

A Montana bill would prohibit state-funded schools and libraries from hosting resistance performances during schoolhouse hours aliases astatine school-sanctioned extracurricular activities. Librarians aliases educators convicted of violating nan rule would look $5,000 fines and nan imaginable suspension and revocation of their school license.

Nearly 2 twelve South Dakota lawmakers person co-sponsored a projected alteration to authorities acquisition law that would prohibit assemblage systems and nationalist schools from utilizing nationalist money and accommodation to “develop, implement, facilitate, host, promote, aliases money immoderate lewd aliases lascivious content” including resistance performances.

Arizona Republicans person projected a trio of resistance restrictions including a measure that would categorize resistance performers, their shows, and establishments that big them arsenic “adult-oriented businesses” — nether existing rule that regulates portion clubs, seductive massage parlors and movie theaters. Approval would prohibit cross-dressing performances wrong a quarter-mile of schools, playgrounds, and kid attraction facilities.

“The strategies and nan perspective that these bills are taking are very different,” Warbelow, of nan Human Rights Campaign, said. “But nan extremity really feels nan same, which is to guarantee that young group person nary vulnerability to nan LGBTQ community.”