FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday to place limits on drag shows in Kentucky.
“This bill not only compromises or asks me to explain my humanity, but it also puts my livelihood in question,” drag performer Poly Tics told a GOP-led Kentucky Senate committee, which voted to bring forward the measure a few minutes later.
The measure would ban drag shows on public land or places where adult performances can be viewed by children.
“This bill is not anti-LGBTQ,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Tichenor, the bill’s lead sponsor. “This bill is pro-children. For some reason, people want this kind of content in front of kids. And I dare ask, why? Why should we sexualize our children?”
Violations of the bill would be punishable as felonies for the first two offenses, but would result in a felony for subsequent offenses. Companies that organize such performances can have their alcohol and business licenses suspended or revoked.
Across the country, conservative activists and politicians complain that drag shows contribute to the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children. The Tennessee legislature recently passed a bill that would ban public drag performances by classifying them as adult cabarets, under topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, and strippers, as the first in the country.
Several other states, including Idaho, North Dakota, Montana and Oklahoma are considering similar bans.
After a lengthy discussion that became emotional at times, the Kentucky Senate committee sent the measure to the full Senate. If it passes there, it still needs House approval. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.
The committee voted to scale back the bill from the original version, which would have placed stricter location restrictions on where drag shows could take place. Despite the changes, opponents continued to raise constitutional questions about the measure.
“Our concern remains that this will include some government censorship inconsistent with our First Amendment protected rights,” said Kate Miller of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.
The bill — Senate Bill 115 — remains discriminatory despite the revisions, said Bob Heeringer, who represented the Fairness Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
“And an ounce of discrimination is the same as an ocean of discrimination,” said Heleringer, a Republican and former Kentucky legislator.
The legislation targets drag shows by referring to adult performances as a “sexually explicit performance” that includes a performance involving male or female impersonators.
David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation, hailed the bill as a “straight forward, common sense and necessary” effort to protect children.
“Let’s put the obvious: Sexually explicit adult performances should not take place on public property and should not be around children, and SB115 would help protect our children from these performances,” Walls said.
Drag performer Poly Tics later told lawmakers that the bill was a drain on her livelihood.
“As a transvestite who depends on travesty shows for income, this account not only tells me that I am not really a rights-deserving human being, but that I am also not worthy of working and that I do not deserve rights. ability to earn money,” she said.
A few minutes later, the Republican members of the committee introduced the bill. After the vote, opponents of the bill began chanting “shame.” The chant continued as the committee chair called for another bill to be considered. The opponents eventually left the committee room.