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Idaho lawmakers move to ban public drag shows

Sasha Velour, a Brooklyn drag queen known for her avant-garde style and performance, is the winner of <em>RuPaul's Drag Race</em> season nine.
Courtesy of VH1
Sasha Velour, a Brooklyn drag queen known for her avant-garde style and performance, is the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race season nine.

After last year’s outcry from conservative circles over drag shows at Pride events in Coeur d’Alene and Boise, state lawmakers are attempting to outlaw public performances.

The bill from the Idaho Family Policy Center defines drag shows as sexually explicit, putting them in the same category as strip teases and burlesque performances.

“Whether we’re talking about a sexually explicit strip tease or a sexually explicit drag show, neither belongs in a public park, a public facility or other places where children are present,” said Blaine Conzatti, president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, which brought the bill.

Drag shows could still be held at private facilities, as long as organizers check IDs at the door to ensure no minors are allowed in.

If it becomes law, performers and organizers who violate the legislation could be sued in civil court and recover $10,000. Minors could also sue for damages for “all psychological, emotional, economic and physical harm suffered.” A lawsuit could be brought at any time within four years of a potential violation.

Public officials could be guilty of a felony if they allow drag shows or other performances outlined in the bill at public facilities.

Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) asked whether a parent or guardian could bring their child to a drag show – something Conzatti said was forbidden.

“In the same way that a parent could not consent to bringing a child, for example, to a strip club, we would preclude a parent from bringing a child to these sexually explicit exhibitions,” he said.

The push stems from conservative activists, lobbying groups and the Idaho Republican Party calling for sponsors to withdraw from Boise Pride over a scheduled youth drag show.

Organizers eventually canceled the event, citing safety issues.

Last summer, conservative blogger Summer Bushnell published an edited video of a drag performance from the Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene.

The video shows the dancer’s blurred groin area, with Bushnell writing, “We want Idaho statue upheld regarding flashing genital in public especially in front of children.”

In a statement, the Coeur d’Alene Prosecuting Attorney’s office said the unedited footage showed no exposure of the dancer’s genitals and that it would not file indecent exposure charges.

The dancer, Eric Posey from Kootenai County, sued Bushnell in September for defamation. A jury trial is set for February 2024.

A public hearing on the bill could come as early as this week.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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