A GOP-backed bill in Oklahoma would fine drag performers up to $20,000 and have them face up to 2 years in jail for performing in front of a minor

  • An Oklahoma bill would make it a felony punishable by a $20,000 fine for drag artists to perform in front of minors.

  • The bill by GOP Rep. Kevin West would also make it a misdemeanor for one to organize drag performances in public.

  • At least ten states have proposed legislation that targets drag performances, including drag queen story hours.

An Oklahoma bill would make it a felony punishable by up to a $20,000 fine for drag artists to perform in front of minors.

The bill would make it "unlawful for a person to engage in an adult cabaret performance" in public before a minor. The fine may fall in the range of $500 to $20,000, and it may also incur a prison sentence from 30 days to two years, according to the bill's text.

State GOP Rep. Kevin West, who filed House Bill 2186 on January 19, told Insider that the bill is intended to limit performances "in a public place."

"But if you have a private venue and parents want to take their children there, then that would not be affected by this bill," West told Insider. "It wouldn't be allowed where just the general public would be able to see the performance. So like a library or a school or something like that would fall into being under the jurisdiction of this bill."

West's bill specifically named drag queen story hours as events that would be considered unlawful, as well as other forms of "adult cabaret" performances. It would also create a misdemeanor for anyone who organizes or authorizes such performances in public or in view of minors, threatening a fine of $500 to $1,000 and a maximum of a year in county jail.

The bill compared drag performers to strippers and topless dancers, defining "drag queen" as a "male or female performer who adopts a flamboyant or parodic feminine persona with glamorous or exaggerated costumes and makeup."

One activist on Twitter also suggested that the wording may criminalize a woman displaying a "feminine persona" with heavy makeup around children, per Newsweek.

But West, in a statement to Insider, disagreed.

"I've gotten emails and seen stuff online where I'm trying to ban the drag queen shows. Well, clearly nothing in the bill says that those are being banned. It's just making sure that they're done in the location where it's intended," West told Insider.

"I think that it really just comes to some of those boundaries. We have a lot of laws on the books that prohibit certain activities in public spaces and with everything that we've been seeing for the last few years on this subject, I think that's why you're seeing a lot of bills like this."

The bill is scheduled to have its first reading in the Oklahoma House on February 6, per the Oklahoma legislature's website.

It follows a trend of similar legislation gaining traction nationwide to limit drag performances, such as in Arizona, Texas, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Missouri, Tennessee, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia, according to reporting by Newsweek and the ACLU. Drag story hours in California and North Carolina, and other states, have also been targeted by the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, over the past year.

In October, a coalition of Republicans in the US House introduced a bill to "Stop the Sexualization of Children," specifically targeting drag queen story hours as "sexually-oriented events," Insider previously reported. The bill would give parents grounds to sue public entities that use federal tax dollars, such as public libraries, for "sexually explicit materials or programs."


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