Montana passes drag ban that targets story hours

Saint John, NB, Canada - June 5, 2022: A drag king reads children's stories at the Drag Story Hour in Market Square.
Saint John, NB, Canada - June 5, 2022: A drag king reads children's stories at the Drag Story Hour in Market Square. Photo: Shutterstock

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) has signed a bill banning drag story hours – a beloved activity that takes place around the country involving drag queens reading books about love and acceptance to kids – from the state. It is the first bill in the country to specifically ban drag performers from reading to kids.

In addition to explicitly prohibiting drag story hour in public schools and libraries, H.B. 359 also says no “sexually oriented or obscene performances” – which Republicans have been using as code for any drag – can take place in public places where children are present.

The bill is unique compared to other states’ drag bans in that it not only specifically mentions drag story hour, but it also explicitly acknowledges and bans both drag queens and drag kings from reading in front of children. It also defines both as “a male or female performer who adopts a flamboyant or parodic” male or feminine persona “with glamorous or exaggerated costumes and makeup.”

It’s unclear why any of that is inappropriate for children, as there is nothing “sexually oriented or obscene” about flamboyant costumes. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Braxton Mitchell (R), told NBC News to “let kids be kids.”

“I’ve asked this question from the beginning, why do these people want to dress half-naked and read books to kids? Never got a single answer.” Drag performers at story hours do not dress half-naked.

The bill’s opponents also say the definitions of drag are vague and they are worried it could even lead to bans of certain theater performances.

Last Friday, May 19, Gianforte signed a bill that legally erases trans and nonbinary identities.

S.B. 458 says that a person’s sex can be only male or female and that they are defined based on gamete size and chromosomes. The law says that one’s sex cannot be changed and that the “subjective experience of gender” is not important for the application of the law.

Gianforte signed the bill even as his own nonbinary and gay son David Gianforte pleaded with him not to.

In April, he also signed a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors, S.B. 99, which bans reversible puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, which have been shown to be life-saving for transgender youth.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Gianforte signed the bill

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