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AZ Senators Aim to Restrict Drag Shows with New Bills

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Thursday, January 12, 2023   

Two Republican Arizona state senators have kicked off the new legislative session wanting to limit and restrict drag shows.

State Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, filed two separate bills: one banning drag shows during certain hours - targeted primarily at eliminating drag brunches - and the other would prohibit drag performances from occurring on public property or any location where a minor could see the show.

State Sen. John Kavanagh's - R-Fountain Hills - bill bans the use of state funds for drag shows targeting minors.

Staff Attorney with Lambda Legal Kell Olson said drag performances are important because they communicate a message of diversity, inclusivity and celebration.

"They show people they are not alone," said Olson. "There are very important purposes for drag shows. These laws do not do what legislators should be doing if they really are concerned about certain content that is inappropriate, they should be focused on that."

For Olson, these bills are what he calls "the latest chapter in a series of laws attempting to shame and demonize LGBTQ-plus people."

Olson said he does expect pushback, but the bills may advance as Republicans hold majorities in the Arizona Senate and House. However, newly elected Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs would be likely to veto the bills.

The senate sponsors have said drag shows' sexually explicit nature is concerning, especially for minors.

Olson said one of the biggest issues he sees with the bills is the aim to define what drag is.

He said the broad definitions present in the legislation could target many transgender and non-conforming individuals executing a performance of any type which he says presents a practical problem.

Olson said legal complications could also follow since the laws seek to suppress ideals of the First Amendment and free expression.

"The fact that these laws have a lot of problems that they trigger because they seek to suppress people's performance and expression based on a particular viewpoint," said Olson. "That is the kind of thing our Constitution doesn't stand for."

Olson said Kavanagh's bill not only targets state funds for the use of drag shows, but also targets funding for any entity that has or operates a drag show.

He said this means a possible youth center that allows drag performances, but receives state funding, could also be cut off.




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