A new bill introduced in the Iowa Senate to ban anyone under the age of 18 from attending a drag show may also inadvertently ban kids from seeing some plays and musicals, pro wrestling events, the circus, or other live activities involving costumes and makeup.
Introduced by Sen. Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville), SF 348 bars youth from attending drag shows, and its definition of drag performer and drag show is broad enough that it could also apply to other forms of entertainment.
According to the bill, a “performer who exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performers’ gender assigned at birth through the use of clothing, makeup, accessories, or other gender signifiers” would not be allowed to perform in front of minors if the performance includes the “performer singing, lip-syncing, dancing, reading, or otherwise performing before an audience for entertainment whether or not performed for payment.”
By that definition, anyone under 18 would not be allowed to see “Mrs. Doubtfire” the musical. Based on Robin Williams’ movie of the same name, “Mrs. Doubtfire” is a comedy about an out-of-work actor who pretends to be a Scottish nanny so that he can stay active in his kids’ lives.
The bill would also limit which plays or musicals schools could put on, since a number of productions feature characters who cross-dress or are intentionally written for an actor to pretend to be another gender.
For example, last year, Creston High School’s drama club put on the comedy “Taming the Wild West in a Dress,” an action-comedy about a young actor named Clarance Rawlins who moves to Luck Lady, Nevada, and through a serious misunderstanding, has to pretend to be British socialite named Lady Claire Rawl. That performance would be prohibited under this law.
Salmon’s proposal could even apply to professional wrestling, a performance event where many of the characters wear makeup and/or flamboyant costumes and perform a choreographed match.
The legislation does not offer any exceptions for parents who are OK with their children attending what the bill defines as a drag show. Anyone over the age of 18 who brings a minor to a drag show would be “guilty of a simple misdemeanor,” an apparent departure from the typical criminal justice process involving charges being filed, hearings, indictments, and trials or plea bargains. The bill says nothing about due process and fails to expand upon how someone could be found automatically guilty of a misdemeanor.
There would also be punishments for businesses or venues that host a drag show where a minor is present. A business would be fined $10,000 for each minor in attendance and whoever planned the event at the business would be “guilty of a serious misdemeanor.”
This bill also prevents state agencies or public entities that receive state funds from hosting drag shows. This is likely in response to the Ankeny Gay Straight Alliance hosting a non-school-sanctioned, after-hours drag show last year and public libraries hosting drag queen story hours.
The legislation would also prohibit powder puff football games, or events such as Ankeny’s “Spice Boys,” a decades-long tradition in which football players dressed up as cheerleaders and performed a choreographed dance routine during mandatory homecoming assemblies.
It would also prevent college clubs from hosting drag shows on campus, even though most of those attending would be over the age of 18, since those clubs would be affiliated with an entity that receives state funds.
Lastly, a parent or guardian could sue for damages between $10,000-$50,000 for any violation listed in this bill.
by Ty Rushing
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