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Ohio Republicans Seek to Criminalize Drag Performers

Ohio Republican lawmakers are trying to criminalize drag performers.

House Bill 245, which was introduced Monday in the Ohio House of Representatives, would define drag shows as “adult cabaret performances.” It doesn’t use the word “drag,” but it says such “adult” shows are those that feature “performers or entertainers who exhibit a gender identity that is different from the performer’s or entertainer’s gender assigned at birth.” This puts drag performers in the same category as strippers or topless dancers.

These performers would be violating the law if they appear in any venue “other than an adult cabaret and in the presence of a juvenile under age 18,” The Plain Dealerof Cleveland reports. A general violation would bring a first-degree misdemeanor charge, and if the performance is deemed obscene, the charge would be a fifth-degree felony. If the event is attended by anyone under 13, the charge would be upped to a fourth-degree felony.

A first-degree misdemeanor in Ohio carries a jail sentence of up to sixth months and a fine of up to $1,000. A fifth-degree felony is punishable with six to 12 months of imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500. A fourth-degree felony conviction brings a sentence of six to 18 months and a maximum fine of $5,000.

If the bill becomes law, it would eliminate drag queen story hours and appearances by drag artists in parks, parades, and other spaces accessible to children. “It would effectively restrict drag events indoors to bars and other spaces where minors are prohibited,” The Columbus Dispatchnotes.

The lead sponsors of HB 245 are Republican Reps. Angela King and Josh Williams. Williams told The Plain Dealer he considers drag story hours obscene. “This is a woman in bad makeup reading to a kid,” he said. “This is a performance [that] demonstrates a different gender in the presence of a child with the sole purpose of desensitizing” children to drag performers.

King didn’t speak to the Cleveland or Columbus papers, but The Buckeye Flame,an LGBTQ+ publication, recently reported that she had protested at a Pride parade in the small western Ohio town of Celina. She was a cosponsor of HB 68, which would ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors and bar trans female athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s school sports. It passed the House in June and is pending in the Senate.

Tennessee this year became the first state to pass drag restrictions into law, but a court has found that statute unconstitutional. lawsuit challenging Montana’s anti-drag measure was filed this month.

Equality Ohio, a statewide LGBTQ+ rights group, condemned the proposal. “There have been multiple documented incidents of self-identified Nazis showing up to performances in Ohio in the past nine months,” said a statement from Maria Bruno, public policy director. “The Department of Homeland Security has sent out multiple alerts indicating the growing threat of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people. Yet instead of addressing guns, targeted intimidation, or any of the escalations of violence that we are seeing in our communities, Ohio’s statehouse politicians instead have chosen to broadly criminalize performing arts.”

Amelia Robinson, the Dispatch’s opinion and community engagement editor, denounced the legislation in a column. Ohio has major problems including infant mortality, gun violence, and homelessness, and “it is truly obscene that anyone in the Statehouse would have even a millisecond to devote to a nonproblem: where drag queens can and cannot lip-synch, ‘shablam’ and wave on parade floats,” she wrote.

Source : Advocate



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