NC Republicans file bill to place restrictions on drag performances

Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Reaction to legislation limiting adult-themed entertainment
Drag performers are expressing concern about the pending legislation.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A new House Bill would strictly limit where adult entertainment, including striptease performances and exhibitions by male and female impersonators, could take place in North Carolina.

Filed Tuesday, House Bill 673, is less than a page long and contains just two sections. The legislation does not specifically use the term "drag," but states that "adult live entertainment," including topless and exotic dancers, strippers, and male or female impersonators, would be barred from performing on public property or in private if a member of the audience is younger than 18 years old.

"We've seen from this particular body this ongoing attack and they use it under the guise of protecting our children, which there's no danger to allowing children to see another healthy form of self-expression and acceptance," said Candis Cox, an LGBTQ activist in the Triangle who has performed in drag shows.

Cox said she was not surprised by the legislation, pointing to other bills filed this session that she believes target the LGBTQ+ community, such as the Fairness in Women's Sports Act; that proposal would require student-athletes to play for the team based on their biological gender listed on their birth certificate.

"Forcing individuals to oppress who they are or what they are or how they identify has a detrimental effect on their psychological health, and on their self-image and on their ability to be a contributing member of society," said Cox.

A new House Bill would strictly limit where drag performances could take place in North Carolina.

She told ABC11 that since the bill was filed, she's heard from other drag performers who are expressing concerns.

"People are already feeling unsafe and fearing for their lives doing something that is innocent and innocuous as live performing. They fear that whether or not this passes, it does once again, make it OK for it to become public debate. And you have the backing of our legislative body which says absolutely, let's penalize these people," Cox explained.

Naomi Dix, a drag performer and organizer of Pride in Durham, was a performer at a theater in Pinehurst when the power went out because of an attack on the power grid.

"It saddened me. It saddened me that this is something that would even come into existence in North Carolina," Dix said. "These are not adult-specific venues, but of course adults happen to come because they do have alcohol and things like that."

Dix said the shows are family-friendly shows unless they say it's an 18-and-up event and they specifically market it that way.

"It is of concern especially when we're talking about pride events because those are meant for the public: they're supposed to be open to all ages," Dix said. "Bills like this whether they are passed or not are not thinking about the community because if they were, they'd understand that when it came to things like Pride or Out in Raleigh or when it came to public events in public, they are meant to bring a convening of families."

Dix contended that the legislation is an attack on a marginalized group of people and an attack on the "queer community and the trans community as a whole."

Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of NC Values Coalition, supports both pieces of legislation and pushed back on concerns that HB 673 would infringe on adults' rights of free expression.

"We're talking about children. And if adults want to go and see adult performances, drag queen performances, strip clubs, they have that right to do so. But we should not be inflicting these types of performances on children," said Fitzgerald.

HB 673 states performers who violate the bill would face a misdemeanor for the first offense, and felony charges for the following offenses.

"We believe that drag queen performances really are adult entertainment and they should be limited to adults. And so we support the bill and it seems very reasonable to us to include drag-queen performances in a bill that would allow local zoning laws to go into effect," said Fitzgerald.

In a statement, John L. Rustin, President of the NC Family Policy Council wrote:

"House Bill 673 is a common-sense bill that simply seeks to prevent inappropriate and sexually explicit acts from being performed in public spaces or in the presence of minors. In doing so, the passage of this bill will help protect the best interest of our children, our families and our communities in North Carolina."

Rep. Jeff Zenger, one of the bill's primary sponsors, told ABC 11 in a statement that the legislation is in response to "constituent concerns" following a drag performance earlier this year at Forsyth Tech Community College.

If passed, the bill would go into effect on Dec. 1.