Legislation introduced Tuesday in the Kansas Senate would classify drag performances as obscenity, potentially criminalizing any underage performance in libraries or other venues in the state.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Mike Thompson R-Shawnee, comes as conservative lawmakers in a host of states have pursued similar measures.
In 2023 alone, laws were introduced in 10 states. In Arkansas, a proposal to classify venues hosting drag shows as equivalent to strip clubs made earlier this month, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said last year he would consider investigate parents who bring their children to such events.
The problem is not new in Kansas either.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt seized on allegations that the Kansas Department of Commerce was funneling grant funds to drag shows, even though the funds did not directly support the events.
Thompson said his bill would classify drag performances as obscenity, which would mean any performances by children would fall under the offense of “promoting obscenity” under state law. A first offense is a class A felony, while any subsequent offense would be a level nine felony.
Moreover:Republicans say the drag shows were funded by the Kansas government. Here’s how the money was actually used.
Kansas senator says drag shows are overly sexualized and gender confusing
In an interview on Tuesday, Thompson said drag shows were overly sexualized and were “creating confusion about their gender” for kids who “should be studying math, science and English.”
“Have you seen these things? Have you seen these kids exposed to this stuff?” he said. “We’re exposing children, young children, to things they shouldn’t be exposed to. I’m sorry. It’s just that at some point you have to say stop. You know, there’s a place for everything. And sadly, we’ve gone too far.” “.
Libraries in Manhattan, Wichita, and the Lawrence have joined a national trend of hosting “drag queen story hours,” in which drag queen artists read to interested children and families. Although Kansas universities have hosted drag shows, there is no evidence that school districts have done the same.
The nationwide bills have sparked concern from free speech advocates, as well as LGBT groups and their allies who say the legislation adds to other efforts to marginalize them. This includes proposed bans on transgender athletes in women’s sports and attempts to limit gender-confirming assistance.
Moreover:Kansas bill to criminalize health care for transgender youth. Here’s what to know.
The Kansas representative says the bill is an attack on the LGBT community
Rep. Brandon Woodard, D-Lenexa, said the bill amounted to an attack on the LGBT community and that advocates were attempting to legislate their own definition of morality.
“I’d be happy to take Senator Thompson to a drag show if he’d like to see what the fuss is about,” he told reporters. “I think drag is an art form. … There is a misconception (about) these performances and these attacks on both drag shows and the LGBT community. People like Senator Thompson irresponsibly view anything other than the style of straight and Christian life as inappropriate.”