Kentucky GOP lawmakers advanced a bill Friday to put limits on drag shows, opponents called it an unconstitutional attack aimed at the LGBT population.
Violations under the Kentucky proposal — Senate Bill 115 — would be punishable as misdemeanors for the first two offenses but would rise to a felony for subsequent offenses. Businesses hosting such performances could have their alcohol and business licenses suspended or revoked.
The measure won Senate passage on a 26-6 vote after a lengthy debate that led to some heated exchanges in the buttoned-down chamber.
The bill’s lead sponsor was asked if she had ever attended a drag show and then if she found it “sexually arousing.” Republican Sen. Lindsey Tichenor replied she had attended a drag show in Kentucky. The latter question — from a Democratic opponent of the bill — was ruled out of order after a GOP Senate leader called it “outside the bounds of decorum.”
The Kentucky bill takes aim at drag shows by stating adult performances include a live performance involving male or female impersonators that “appeals to a prurient interest in sexual conduct” and lacks “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
There are numerous existing laws, including indecent exposure in Kentucky, to deal with sexually explicit activity in public places. The bill instead sends a message of “hate and fear and discrimination to a group of Kentuckians that deserve equal protection and equal dignity under the law.
The measure heads to the House with only a few days remaining in this year’s 30-day legislative session. If passed Democratic Governor Andy Beshear will more than likely VETO it. But Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers for a possible override.