A Florida lawmaker wants to make it a felony to bring a child to a drag show. If a parent brings a child to a drag show on multiple occasions, this legislature wants DCFS to terminate their parental rights. This is yet another step in the culture war that has recently fallen the way of civil rights advocates. There is now more pushback against the gay and trans communities from conservative legislators.
The question is: Would it be legal to prevent a child from going to a drag show? That is to say: Would the government be authorized to criminalize taking a child to a drag show and penalize the parent for that action? Legislators typically don’t consider the Constitutional impact of their laws until a team of lawyers has to defend the state’s case in criminal courts. Nonetheless, taking your child to an event is considered protected speech under the law so long as that event is not meant for someone over the age of 18. In other words, the prosecution would have to argue that the content is unfit for children or sexual in nature. Meanwhile, child-friendly drag shows do exist and they do not include sexual content.
Some are getting upset only about the visibility of Queer communities in their neighborhoods. This has resulted in a broadscale reactionary pushback against child-friendly events such as reading time with drag queens. In this case, a drag queen (simply a man dressed as a woman) reads children’s books to children.
What are the prospects of getting a law like this passed?
There are a lot of people in Florida who will simply rally around the idea that the Queer community is trying to “force” its values onto others. This is an extension of the slippery slope argument: “If we let people be gay, then what’s next? Letting people be pedophiles?” Obviously, that argument doesn’t hold water because adults consent to sex whereas children cannot. Nonetheless, there is still a stigma among the general public against any sort of gender-bending whatsoever, regardless of whether or not it’s harmful to children.
In most cases, what’s harmful to children is exposing them to hateful views that destroy their ability to have solid relationships. Unless you stick to a tiny community, you will be exposed to all different sorts of people in the workplace. Some of them may do drag shows on the weekends, have sex with folks of the same gender, not present their gender in a standard way, or even be Black or born in a foreign country. This exposure is not an affront to those who are offended by it, it’s the cost of living in modern society. You cannot legislate someone’s identity away and since gender-nonconformity is protected (now) by the Civil Rights Act, it feels unreasonable to imagine that child-friendly drag shows could be made illegal under the First Amendment and the latest interpretations of civil rights statutes.
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