Kentucky lawmakers have passed a bill to ban drag show performances from being presented in places where they can be viewed by children.
The GOP-backed legislation passed the Senate on Friday by a vote of 26 to 6. Senate Bill 115, which Republicans say is designed to protect children, would also ban drag shows from public property.
“The intent of this legislation is to restrict these types of adult performances to adults,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Tichenor, the bill’s lead sponsor.
Democratic Senator Karen Berg argued that people who don’t support drag shows are under no obligation to attend.
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Drag performer Poly Tics (right) attends a rally in Frankfort, Kentucky. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)
She said dragging is a form of self-expression for LGBTQ+ groups that “you don’t have to understand, you don’t have to appreciate, you don’t have to like and you don’t have to be there.”
Drag shows have been criticized across the country by parents and Republican lawmakers who say the performances are sexualized and inappropriate for children. In Tennessee, GOP Governor Bill Lee recently signed a bill banning public drag performances by classifying them as adult entertainment, putting them in the same category as topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers and strippers.
The Kentucky bill states that adult performance includes a live performance in which male or female impersonators appeal to a “salacious interest in sexual behavior” that has no “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
Those who violate the measure would receive a felony for the first two offenses and a misdemeanor for the subsequent offenses. Under the bill, companies hosting the drag shows could have their alcohol and business licenses suspended or revoked.
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Lawmakers in Kentucky have passed a bill to ban drag show performances from being presented where they can be viewed by children. (Paul Harris/Getty Images)
Recognizing the long history of male and female impersonators, Tichenor pointed to the portrayal of a woman by the late actor Robin Williams in the film “Mrs. Doubtfire”.
“This bill does not address that type of performance in any way,” she said.
She said the bill was introduced because performances previously restricted to mature audiences are now being presented to the general public, suitable for all ages.
Opponents of the bill argue that it questions constitutional protections and targets the LGBTQ community.
Democratic Senator Cassie Chambers Armstrong said First Amendment protections extend to the “expressive choices we make.” She said this includes the clothes people wear and the way they choose to present themselves to the world.
Republicans say Senate Bill 115 was introduced to protect children. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
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Chambers added that there are numerous existing laws to combat sexually explicit activity in public places.
The bill now heads to the House, where Republicans also have a supermajority, with just days left in the year’s 30-day legislative session.
“What’s hateful about keeping kids away from sexualized adult performances?” said Tichenor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.