Idaho conservatives introduced a bill Monday that would ban drag performances from public places and target Pride celebrations, making it the latest in a long line of states trying to limit LGBTQ rights.
The president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, a conservative Christian organization, introduced the bill, which would allow parents to sue event organizers and promoters who allow minors to be present at shows that feature “sexual conduct.” It would also prohibit such shows from taking place in public spaces like parks.
Blaine Conzatti said the bill had been prompted by the 2022 Pride Month celebrations in Idaho. “It does not matter whether we’re talking about a sexually explicit striptease or a sexually explicit drag show,” he told the House State Affairs Committee Monday. “Neither belongs in a public park, a public facility, or other places where children are present.”
The bill defines sexual conduct as dances or movements with “accessories that exaggerate” sexual characteristics and acts.
Conzatti has previously called homosexuality “sinful,” “an abomination,” and “immoral.” He issued a statement in September urging Idaho lawmakers to ban drag in public, calling the performances “appalling displays of sexual deviancy” and comparing them to strip clubs or adult movie stores.
Idaho has now joined the list of more than 20 bills nationwide that are seeking to ban drag performances in public, ostensibly to protect children from being exposed to obscene material. These laws could be challenged in court on the grounds they violate the First Amendment. Marjorie Heins, a First Amendment lawyer, told Middle Tennessee State University’s First Amendment Encyclopedia that a law that bans both protected expression, such as drag, and unprotected expression, such as obscenity, is too broad and therefore unconstitutional.
While proponents of these bills say they are trying to protect children, it’s becoming increasingly clear they are really just targeting LGBTQ people. The Idaho House passed another bill targeting Pride last week. The bill would restrict state agencies from sponsoring nongovernmental organizations and events such as Boise Pride. Instead, state agencies would have to get approval from the governor to give financial support to a nonprofit or NGO.
Tennessee became the first state earlier this month to pass a drag ban bill, also prompting concerns about an attack on trans people and Pride celebrations more generally. Governor Bill Lee has yet to sign or veto it.
“Discriminating against drag performances based on the content of their expression is a direct contradiction of a fundamental principle of our democracy: our First Amendment right to express ourselves on and off the stage,” the ACLU of Tennessee said the day the bill passed. “So, let’s call this what it is—a malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life.”