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Texas GOP introduces bills to ban drag performances almost entirely

drag queen with finger over mouth
Photo: Shutterstock

Texas state Republicans have introduced four bills that would reclassify any businesses that host drag shows as “sexually oriented businesses” and subject them to higher taxes, fees, and zoning laws, essentially forcing venues to choose between hosting a drag show or being shut down.

The bills are currently in committee and may never become law, but they’re just part of numerous anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the Lone Star State that would ban queer content from classrooms, block trans people from playing college sports, and stop trans youth from accessing gender-affirming care.

The bills that would reclassify drag venues as sexually oriented businesses are so broadly written that they would ban transgender karaoke singers or any performances with cross-dressing, including Shakespearean plays and numerous musicals. The bills would recategorize drag venues — including bars, restaurants, libraries, and theatres — as being no different than sex parlors, porn stores, and other businesses that provide “sexual stimulation” or “gratification” to customers.

Texas state law says that sexually oriented businesses are “detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare by contributing to the decline of residential and business neighborhoods and the growth of criminal activity.”

As such, cities and towns are allowed to prohibit these businesses from operating “within a certain distance of a school, regular place of religious worship, residential neighborhood,” or any other place that seems “inconsistent” with such operations. Cities and towns may also deny, suspend, or revoke any operational licenses that allow these businesses to function.

Under this law, drag venues would be required to prominently post signs outside of their front doors stating to the public that they are sexually oriented businesses, something that is both misleading and untrue, seeing as most drag shows feature neither nudity nor explicit sexual content.

Tennessee recently passed a drag ban, and at least 17 other states are considering one. These bans have been authored under the guidance of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ legal advocacy and hate group.

Texas legislators have also introduced several bills to block people from accessing gender-affirming care.

One bill would allow medical providers to “decline treatment to any patient for religious views, moral philosophy or ‘ethical position’ except for during emergency or life-threatening instances,” The Texas Tribune reported.

Four other bills would reclassify the use of puberty blockers or hormone therapies as “child abuse,” prohibit medical providers from prescribing them (under penalty of having their medical licenses revoked), ban insurance companies from covering them, and allow any person “injured” by such care (including disapproving parents and the small percentage of people who de-transition) to sue up to 20 years later.

These laws would compel medical providers and insurance companies to no longer provide such care and would compel medical professionals to refuse such care rather than risk license revocation or lawsuits.

The laws would also force trans children to de-transition, cause more parents of trans youth to flee the state rather than risk having their families torn apart, and would force trans kids into state foster care, increasing their likelihood of mental illness, drug addiction, homelessness, and suicidality. The laws would also continue to prevent the state’s child abuse agency from helping kids who actually need it.

State Republicans have also introduced legislation to ban trans women from playing in university women’s sports. Texas already has a ban on trans students playing on K-12 sports teams. If the university law passes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), whose policies allow trans participation, said it would no longer host tournaments and events in the state.

Republicans have also introduced legislation similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law which would forbid any classroom content about “sexual orientation or gender identity” and would require schools to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents under the threat of civil lawsuits. The bills are so broadly written as to outlaw mentioning any historical figure’s gender or spouse whatsoever.

State Democrats have introduced bills that would include gender identity and sexual orientation in hate crime laws and prohibit foster care providers from religious-based anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, but these bills have no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled legislature.

As 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills work their way through legislatures in 38 states this year alone, Texas ranks third among states that have introduced the most anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

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