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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Republicans seek to clamp down on drag shows and lustful thoughts

Rep. Braxton Mitchell  (R) - Columbia Falls
Kevin Hudson
Montana Legislature
Rep. Braxton Mitchell (R) - Columbia Falls

Drag performances could be banned from public property or any location that receives funding from the state, under a policy that’s passed out of committee and is heading to the Montana House of Representatives.

Braxton Mitchell from Columbia Falls brought the bill, along with 82 Republican co-sponsors, including many members of the House Judiciary Committee where the bill was first heard.

“Why exactly did drag shows become children's entertainment, and quote unquote, family friendly. In my humble opinion, there's no such thing as a family friendly drag show,” Mitchell said.

During public testimony, opponents argued House Bill 359 perpetuates a false narrative that members of the LGBTQ community are sexual predators. Representative Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat from Missoula, said this narrative was evident in proponent testimony.

"What we saw was a perpetual conflation between sexual orientation, gender identity, drag performances, and most problematic, the sexualization of children," Zephyr said.

The committee voted to add two amendments to the bill before passing it onto the House. One prohibits drag performances at any location that gets state funding. Another redefines drag performances to include any male or female impersonators providing entertainment that could excite lustful thoughts.

The bill also states that any public employee found in violation of the policy could face a fine of up to $5,000.

Democrats on the committee criticized the bill and amendments for containing vague, subjective terminology that could be easily misinterpreted.

Updated: February 16, 2023 at 3:21 PM MST
This story has been updated: There are 82 co-sponsors of the bill as of Thursday afternoon.
Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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