RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Two members of the North Carolina House from Forsyth County are sponsoring a bill that would ban male and female impersonators from performing for audiences that include anyone younger than 18.
House Bill 673, the so-called “Clarify Regulations on Adult Entertainment” bill, was filed Tuesday by District 74 Rep. Jeff Zenger (R-Lewisville), with District 75 Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) also listed as a primary sponsor.
The bill expands the statute governing live “adult” entertainment – such as topless dancers and strippers – to include “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.”
“There was an incident at Forsyth Tech Community College several weeks ago that raised constituent concerns over drag showsm” Zenger wrote in an email response to questions from WGHP. “This bill is a response to those concerns expressed to me about age-appropriate entertainment.”
Less clear is the law’s specification of “whether or not performed for consideration,” which would presume to mean whether the performers were compensated.
It’s also unclear if the “younger than 18” limitation would mean that artistic performances that include cross-dressing characters would be banned. Those could include productions of the play “Hairspray Jr.” or the new musical “Tootsie,” based on the movie that starred Dustin Hoffman, or even cartoons with cross-dressing appearances by such cartoon characters as Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo and Quick Draw McGraw.
The Guilford Green Foundation & LGBTQ Center, based in Greensboro, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, stating that the group “unequivocally” condemns the proposed legislation and noting that the bill comes just days before the group’s “Green Queen Bingo” slated for April 21.
“If Drag, especially Green Queen Bingo, is important to you, please take this opportunity to fully support Drag performers: attend events, tip the performers, and advocate for the art form!” Guilford Green said.
Equality NC called the bill “harmful legislation” and railed against it as “yet another strategy to restrict gender and gender expression and legislate LGBTQ+ people out of existence.”
“HB 673 is a discriminatory and undemocratic attack on our most fundamental rights,” said Equality NC Executive Director Kendra Johnson. “Attacks on drag shows aim to stop LGBTQ+ people from being who we are and expressing ourselves freely. Drag bans are part of broader attacks on queer and transgender people, alongside coordinated efforts to police gender expression. Drag performances are one of many diverse art forms that the LGBTQ+ community has contributed to American culture, and this form of expression should be protected under the First Amendment.”
Protests against the presence of drag performers at events – sometimes by right-wing militant groups such as the Proud Boys – have brought North Carolina to the forefront of the issue. At least one event in Moore County coincided with a significant public disruption of electrical power.
Last June, the Forsyth County Republican Men’s Club protested a drag queen story time held at Bookmarks in Winston-Salem for children ages 3 to 7. The town of Apex canceled a similar event because of protests.
HB 673 has not been read into the House or assigned to the Rules Committee. Zenger’s cosponsors also include Rep. Mark Pless (R-Haywood) and Rep. Donnie Loftis (R-Gaston). Among its cosponsors are Rep. Neal Jackson (R-Robbins) and Rep. Dennis Riddell (R-Snow Camp) from the Triad.