Members of the Ohio House of Representatives have introduced a bill that would ban drag performances in front of children.
House Bill 245 would ban “adult cabaret performances” outside of venues specifically designated for adult cabarets.
The bill stipulates that “No person, with knowledge of its character or content, shall recklessly engage in an adult cabaret performance in a location other than an adult cabaret.”
The bill defines an “adult cabaret performance” as a performance in a location other than an adult cabaret that is “harmful to juveniles” and features any of the following: topless dancers; go-go dancers; exotic dancers; strippers; performers or entertainers who exhibit a gender identity that is different from the performer’s or entertainer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts, or other physical markers.
State Rep. Josh Williams (R-41), one of the primary sponsors of the bill, said this is a “morality issue” and minors should not be exposed “to these types of sexualized performances at a young age.”
“We’ve seen time and time again there’s been a push to make these performances more explicit in front of minors,” Williams said. “We’ve seen videos from across the state of Ohio.”
Depending on the presence of juveniles and the level of obscenity in the performance, violators could face misdemeanor or felony charges.
“If it’s a performance in front of a minor under the age of 13, it would be a felony of the fourth degree,” Williams said.
WTOL reported that an Ohio drag performer known as Sugar Vermonte said the bill would embolden “neo-Nazis and other similar extremist groups” by criminalizing “drag queens and LGBTQ people.”
“There is absolutely nothing inherently sexual about a drag performance whatsoever,” Vermonte said.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther tweeted Tuesday that banning drag shows “goes against the values we hold dear” and that he was “beyond disappointed that the state legislature would propose such a thing.”
The bill was introduced Monday and already has over 40 cosponsors – all Republicans.