News (USA)

Kentucky bill could force LGBTQ+ businesses to move farther from schools & churches

Drag queen Esme Nichols helps host drag bingo at Playa Bar on Aug. 26, 2023
Drag queen Esme Nichols helps host drag bingo at Playa Bar on Aug. 26, 2023 Photo: Megan Mendoza/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Under cover of a business bill passed through the House Veterans, Military Affairs & Public Protection Committee in the Kentucky legislature, culture warriors in the state are continuing their assault on LGBTQ+ identity by banning “sexually explicit” performances hosted in “adult-oriented businesses” in areas where children may be present.

Opponents are calling S.B. 147 “anti-drag.”

If enacted, the bill would force LGBTQ+ businesses that host drag shows to move if located within a city block’s distance from a school, church, or library, the Kentucky Lantern reports.

Speaking in favor of the bill, Republican state Rep. Chris Fugate recounted the story of a “young man” who recently came into his church “dressed as a young lady.”

“My heart breaks for him,” Fugate said.

“Society has become a society that causes confusion,” he continued. “Somewhere along the line, somebody’s abused that young man, no doubt.” 

“Somebody has added to his confusion. These drag queen shows and all this garbage—” he said, before turning to an audience member shaking their head in disagreement. “You can shake your head ‘no’ at me. You don’t intimidate me; you don’t scare me. The truth’s the truth.”  

House Democratic Whip Rachel Roberts asked Fugate, “I wonder if your heart would break if I had shown up wearing a tie today?”

She told the committee Fugate’s words “sent me so back on my heels.”

Not all Republicans were on board with the discriminatory legislation.

A former state house member speaking for the Fairness Campaign, Republican Bob Heleringer, told lawmakers that the bill is a “bad look” for Kentucky.

“We’re the party of freedom; we’re the party of liberty; we’re the party of treating people as individuals,” he said. “We’re the party of business; we’re the party of getting government out of our lives, keeping it small and not intrusive. And this is the antithesis of that.” 

He called the bill a thinly veiled effort to “codify discrimination” and “codify bigotry.” 

Another Republican legislator, state Rep. Stephanie Dietz, made a patronizing attempt to distinguish Kentucky’s gays from the rabble in the rest of the country.

“The vulgarity that is in some of those parades” is from outside of Kentucky and not from the LGBTQ+ community in her constituency, she said. 

“I have a niece that is gay. I have people that live in my neighborhood that are gay,” she explained. “I want to be sensitive.”

Dietz joined her fellow Republicans to pass the bill through committee on a mostly party-line vote.

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