AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas lawmakers voted along party lines to advance two bills that would enact restrictions to drag-related events and even criminalize performers in the state.
Members of the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs agreed Monday to push forward the two proposed drag restrictions — Senate Bill 12 and Senate Bill 1601 — for debate to the full chamber. Both measures advanced in committee by votes of 6-2.
It’s unclear when the full Senate will take up both pieces of legislation for discussion. If they ultimately pass there, they would head to the Texas House of Representatives for approval before going to the governor’s desk for signature.
SB 12 would levy a penalty of up to $10,000 against any business owner hosting a “sexually oriented performance” with anyone who’s younger than 18 present. A city or county would also not be able to host these kinds of performances on public property, according to the proposal.
The bill does not specifically mention the word “drag” in its language, but LGBTQ+ advocates and other critics interpret the bill’s definition of a “sexually oriented performance” as applying to drag shows.
The bill defines “sexually oriented performance” as a “male performer exhibiting as a female, or a female performer exhibiting as a male” who “appeals to the prurient interest in sex.”
Drag performers could face a criminal misdemeanor charge if they perform in front of children or on public property, according to the language in SB 12.
Meanwhile, SB 1601 would bar the state from providing money to any municipal library if it holds an event with someone dressed in drag reading books to children.
The bill’s text reads, “A municipal library may not receive state funds if the library hosts an event at which a man presenting as a woman or a woman presenting as a man reads a book or a story to a minor for entertainment and the person being dressed as the opposite gender is a primary component of the entertainment.”
Texas Sen. Bryan Hughes, the bills’ sponsor, and other supporters argue it’s inappropriate for drag performers to read to or perform for kids, and these measures would better protect them. However, critics contend these demonize and target a popular part of life for LGBTQ+ Texans and their allies.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick included SB 12 and other LGBTQ+ restrictions among his list of legislative priorities this year. The 88th regular legislative session is set to end on May 29.