New AZ Legislation Criminalizes Drag Perfomance

Sofia Nieto, News Editor

The Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to regulate and possibly ban drag performances February 2 claiming such performances would be “adult cabaret” as SB 1028 claims. The bill will move along to voting in the State Senate soon.

Glendale’s Senator Anthony Kern wanted to ensure that no drag performance will occur within a quarter mile of a daycare center, school, playground, park, house or church – and claimed these performances are “evil” and “pornographic” for children to see. 

“I will show you the absolute debauchery and evil behind this. We have to protect the children,” said Senator Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson, a member of the Arizona Freedom Caucus. 

Senator John Kavanagh of R-Fountain Hills additionally insisted that, “It’s not R-rated, it’s X-rated entertainment”. 

The consistent prejudice and bias towards drag queens and performers has been driven to a new level – it is no longer just a hateful bias, as it is completely restricting these individuals from feeling comfortable in their skin and expressing themselves in a way that makes them feel safe and content. 

Jessica Harper, a transgender woman working in Scottsdale as a DJ explained how, “This bill is so vaguely written it would effectively make it illegal for me to exist as a transwoman, let alone, DJ anywhere but a strip club.”. 

“I think we’re just really uncovering the root of the insecurities of the average American person,” Harper said. “Phoenix has a really flourishing drag presence and I see that as a really awesome thing, like any art form that grows, you get so many different variants.”

Select politicians that put harmful labels and stereotypes on drag shows makes it dangerous for transgender individuals and the LGBTQ+ community as some people’s opinions on the matter insinuate that something as harmless as a drag performance is “illegal”, henceforth creating an environment in which these individuals are fearful to be themselves. 

Amanda Brown, a local drag performer, questions the bill heavily as she believes that the parents of these children shouldn’t be taking them to performances in the first place.  

In an interview with the AZ Mirror, Brown said, “If they take them to an adult nightclub, then that’s their issue. They should be punished and fined, not the entertainer”. 

In addition to this, Phoenix  Sen. Christine Marsh explained how such laws already exist – those in which protect minors from sexually explicit shows and pornography – and how this bill “singles out a particular community, many of whose members are already incredibly vulnerable”. 

However, opposing this claim, Glendale Sen. Anthony Kern explains that the bill is not intended to “single out the drag community”, even though he had repeatedly insisted that drag shows are “evil” through his previous claims. 

“The reason we are singling out drag performances is [because] there are drag performances out there that are targeting children, and that needs to stop,” he said. “The problem is that children are being targeted in many areas, and it is evil against good…and we’ve got to push back on evil.”

Critics claim that the bill’s definition would eventually loop into transgender individuals’ lives and into the lives of actors in satirical plays, given the bill is not clear enough in its definition and intentions. 

The first violation of the bill’s provisions would result in a class 1 misdemeanor for the performer themself, and the business hosting the performance – which could lead to a $2500 fine and up to 6 months in jail. 

As the bill advances and more right-leaning government officials speak on the issue, it has become inevitably clear that this bill originated from personal hatred and bias. 

In another interview for the AZ Mirror, Marilyn Rodriguez, a lobbyist for the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “Let’s call this what it is: an unhinged attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life”. 

And that’s what this bill is becoming: a direct attempt to single out these already marginalized individuals for being expressive through performance, based on an untrue accusation about them “poisoning” the youth.