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Senate bills restricting drag performances and story hours headed to Texas House

A float in the Austin Pride Parade on South Congress Avenue in downtown Austin, TX on August 20, 2022. Stephanie Tacy for KUT
Stephanie Tacy
/
KUT
A float travels down Congress Avenue during the Austin Pride Parade in 2022.

A pair of bills that would severely hamper drag performances in the state — including drag story times in public libraries — passed the Texas Senate Wednesday afternoon.

The measures are now headed to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration in that chamber.

Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said his bills would protect minors from sexually explicit content.

The measures are part of a series of bills that have passed the Texas Senate targeting people in the LGBTQ community.

Senate Bill 12 would prohibit public drag performances by a male performer dressed as a female or vice versa, and that “appeals to the prurient interest in sex.” The ban would apply to performances in front of minors.

Under the bill, a person who violates the law would be subject to a penalty of no more than $10,000.

The measure is one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities for the session.

In a statement after the bill’s passage on Wednesday, Patrick said the legislation is meant to “fight back against the radical Left’s degradation of our society and values.”

But the measure has received criticism from LGBTQ people and their allies, who say the bill is harmful.

Bobby Pudrido, an Austin-based drag king, told The Texas Newsroom last month the proposal also puts at risk transgender people.

“When I step out of my home in or out of drag, if this bill does pass, I’m essentially breaking the law,” Pudrido said.

Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, slammed the legislation in a press conference on Tuesday, including the claims of Republican lawmakers that it would protect children.

Gutierrez represents Uvalde, a town rocked last year by the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School where 19 students and 2 teachers were killed.

“They can talk about drag shows and they can talk about nonsense. But at the end of the day, we are not protecting our most precious asset — and that is our children.” Gutierrez said.

Meanwhile, the Senate also gave final approval to Senate Bill 1601 on Wednesday.

Under the measure, municipal libraries would lose state funding if they host events where drag performers read books to minors, often known as Drag Story Hours.

Brigitte Bandit, an Austin-based drag queen, told The Texas Newsroom last month that performers are fully aware of the adjustments they need to make when presenting in front of minors.

“We don’t want kids at the gay bar at 11 p.m. on a Friday night,” Bandit said. “But we do want to be able to hold our drag queen story times that are intentionally modified for children.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the Texas Capitol Reporter for The Texas Newsroom. Got a tip? Email him at smb@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel.
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