(WGHP) — New legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly could restrict drag show performances.
House Bill 673 classifies male and female impersonators as adult entertainers. The single-page bill also states: “it is unlawful for a person to engage in adult live entertainment on public property or in a location where the adult live entertainment is in the presence of an individual under the age of 18.”
“It’s not been what they’re doing. It’s who they’re doing it for: kids,” Representative Jeff Zenger said.
He was inspired to file the bill after receiving complaints from the community about a student-led Pride club event at Forsyth Technical Community College with drag performers.
At the event, a freshman-aged student received a lap dance.
“I said…’here’s an easy fix. I’m just going to classify this as adult entertainment. The drag folks still get to do what they want to do. Parents get to have their children protected. Everybody wins,” Representative Zenger said.
It’s a move the NC Values Coalition welcomes.
“These are things that should just not be promoted in North Carolina. We believe it’s obscenity,” said Tammy Fitzgerald, executive director of NC Values Coalition.
Brian Coleman, chair of Greensboro Pride and a former drag performer himself, calls the bill unconstitutional and says it infringes on his curated art form and First Amendment rights.
“These are professional entertainers, so they know that the numbers they perform or the imagery must be catered to the audience…there’s a time and a place for everything,” Coleman said.
Coleman believes the popularity and demand for drag performers speaks for itself.
“Greensboro Pride brought 40,000 plus people to downtown Greensboro last year,” Coleman said. “This is dollars we’re talking about now. People’s freedom. We’re talking about tax revenue.”
Coleman also worries about the message it sends to people within the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities.
“This is a threat to their future and the representation they may or may not be able to see in local organizations,” Coleman said.
FOX8 asked Representative Zenger if the bill applies to movies shown in public parks or performances at places like the Tanger Center.
“There are plays and performances and stuff that do have some things in there that would qualify as adult entertainment, so I don’t know where the exception is within those laws,” Zenger said. “There’s going to be some change, but I don’t think it’s as complicated.”
The next step is for the bill to move to a committee. If it becomes, law it will take effect on Dec. 1.
FOX8 reached out to Bookmarks in Winston-Salem and Scuppernog Books in Greensboro. Both host story times for the community with drag performers.
Scuppernog says they are talking to the performers they work with and are keeping an eye on how the bill moves through.
Bookmarks tells FOX8 they are also keeping tabs on the progress and want their business to continue to be a place of inclusion for everyone.