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Republicans in Montana have taken a strong stand against drag queens reading books to children, banning the practice at libraries and schools.
Republican governor Greg Gianforte signed Montana HB 359 on Monday; over half of the state legislature cosponsored the bill, which bars minors from attending sexually oriented shows.
“A school or library that receives any form of funding from the state may not allow a sexually oriented performance or drag story hour … on its premises during regular operating hours or at any school-sanctioned extracurricular activity,” the bill states, adding that a minor who attended such a performance “may bring an action against a person who knowingly promotes, conducts, or participates as a performer in the performance. The minor’s parent or legal guardian may bring an action in the name of the minor for an action commenced under this section.”
“In my humble opinion, there’s no such thing as a ‘family-friendly’ drag show,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Braxton Mitchell, said in April, adding that he sponsored the bill “because drag shows in recent years have been specifically aimed at children.” He also stated that drag queens reading to children were part of a “sick agenda” and drag shows were “damaging to a child’s psychology and general welfare.”
In signing the bill, Gianforte commented that he believed it was “wildly inappropriate for little kids, especially preschoolers and kids in elementary school, to be exposed to sexualized content.”
The bill passed the Republican-controlled House in a 66-33 vote in February. Democrat Minority Leader Kim Abbott declared, “I’m going to object today every time we’re equating a drag performance to sexualizing children. And I just want the body to know that we can do it all day long.”
Democrats attempted to amend the bill and replace references to “drag” with “adult-oriented performance.” Mitchell said the Democrats’ amendment “completely derails the intent of the legislation” while pushing for the motion to be defeated, which it was in a 58-42 vote.
Drag queens reading at libraries has been pushed for years; as far back as 2016 San Francisco-based RADAR Productions and New York-based Feminist Press teamed up to bring “Drag Queen Story Hour” to life.
“DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity in childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models,” explained the campaign’s YouTube promotional video. “In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, and where dress-up is real.”