New bill in Idaho Legislature would restrict minors from attending drag, burlesque and strip shows
If passed into law, legislation would also prevent drag, burlesque, strip shows and other shows from being held at public facilities or using public assets
Idaho Family Policy Center President Blaine Conzatti presents a new bill before the House State Affairs Committee on Feb. 27, 2023, that would restrict minors from attending live drag, burlesque and erotic dancing shows. (Clark Corbin/Idaho Capital Sun)
The Idaho Legislature’s House State Affairs Committee introduced a new bill Monday that the bill’s author said would restrict minors from attending so-called “sexual exhibitions,” including drag shows, burlesque performances, erotic dancing and stripteases — even with their parents’ consent.
If passed into law, Idaho’s new bill would also prevent drag, burlesque, strip shows and other shows from being held at public facilities or using public assets — including at city, state and county parks and city, county or state-owned venues, concert halls or performing arts centers.
However, opponents of the bill have previously argued that legislation prohibiting public drag shows or other forms of expression could represent a violation of First Amendment rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.
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The bill would require the performers, promoters and participants of live shows or performances to “take reasonable steps to restrict the access of minors” if the live show involved sexual conduct and if organizers and performers had reason to believe minors were likely to be present.
The bill describes sexual conduct as
- “Acts, whether actual or simulated, of masturbation, sexual intercourse, or physical contact with a person’s unclothed genitals or public area.”
- “Sexually explicit descriptions” of such acts.
- “Sexually provocative dances or gestures performed with accessories that exaggerate male or female primary or secondary sexual characteristics.”
The bill includes language that such shows would have to be “patently offensive to an average person applying contemporary community standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors.”
Passing the bill would give a minor who is exposed to such shows, or their accompanying parent, the standing to sue and collect $10,000 for each violation of the bill. It would also be considered a misuse of public funds to stage any such performances at public facilities or parks.
Idaho Family Policy Center writes and presents drag show bill
The bill was written by representatives of the Idaho Family Policy Center, a conservative Christian research and policy organization, and sponsored by Sen. Ben Toews, R-Coeur d’Alene. Idaho Family Policy Center President Blaine Conzatti presented the bill to the House State Affairs Committee on Monday.
“I want everyone to be clear on what types of performances would fall within the scope of the proposed legislation,” Conzatti told legislators. “We are not talking about humorous, gender-bending roles in Shakespearean theater. We are not talking about cheerleading performances at high school football games. We are talking about live performances that involve sexual conduct.”
Conzatti specifically told legislators the bill is meant to apply equally to drag shows, burlesque shows, erotic dancing and strip performances.
“It does not matter whether we are talking about a sexually explicit striptease or a sexually explicit drag show,” Conzatti said. “Neither belongs in a public park, a public facility or other places where children are present.”
In October, Conzatti pledged to bring a bill forward banning drag performances in public venues, after Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon called for businesses to boycott the September 2022 Boise Pride festival, which was originally scheduled to include a “Drag Kids” performance that organizers ultimately postponed, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported. That performance required parental consent.
Organizers of Boise Pride could not immediately be reached Monday.
Boise Pride Executive Director Donald Williamson previously told the Sun he thought a bill to ban public drag performances would likely be a violation of free speech. Williamson said drag performances are an empowering expression of identity and anybody who doesn’t want to see drag shows has a choice not to attend.
Williamson has also previously called on Idahoans to speak out about such bills.
“Show up and show out huge, not only when we see this legislation, but any legislation that’s targeting anybody that’s hateful or hurtful and is going to affect vast swaths of the population in a negative way,” Williamson said in an October interview.
Monday’s hearing was only a print, or introductory hearing, and no public testimony was accepted. Introducing the new bill Monday clears the way for it to return to the House State Affairs Committee for a full public hearing.
The new bill did not appear on the Idaho Legislature’s website as of 3 p.m. Monday. It will be assigned a bill number and posted online for the public to view once it is read across the desk on the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives, which will likely happen by Tuesday.
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