Utah Democrats Defy Public Outcry, Oppose Bill Criminalizing Sexualized Drag Shows For Children

By Javier Sanchez | Tuesday, 20 February 2024 10:30 AM
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In a recent legislative move that has sparked controversy, Utah Representative Brian King, who is currently running as a Democratic candidate for the state's governorship, along with several other Democratic representatives, voted against a bill that seeks to criminalize the deliberate exposure of children under 14 to sexualized performances.

These performances include drag shows and other similar events. The bill, known as "Lewdness Involving a Child Amendments," specifically prohibits acts such as simulated masturbation, intercourse, and erotic touching of real or artificial breasts in performances intended for children.

Representative King, who announced his gubernatorial bid in December, along with Democratic Utah State Representatives Gay Bennion, Joel Briscoe, Brett Garner, Sarah Hayes, Sandra Hollins, Ashlee Matthews, Angela Romero, and Mark Wheatley, voted against the bill. The legislation, sponsored by Republican Representative Collin Jack, was passed in the Utah House last Thursday with a vote of 59 to 9.

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However, not all Democrats opposed the bill. Representatives Carol Moss, Rosemary Lesser, and Doug Owens, all Democrats, voted in favor of the legislation. The bill broadens the definition of offenses of lewdness involving a child to include actions in performances such as drag shows that are sexual in nature.

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During the public debate on the bill, Equality Utah (EU), an LGBTQ activism group that has endorsed Representative King in past elections, expressed concerns about the bill. EU Policy Director Marina Lowe argued that the bill could potentially allow prosecutors to "target protected speech in venues such as the pride parades that happen across the state."

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Contrarily, Goud Maragani, Chairman of the Utah Gay Straight Coalition, voiced his support for the bill. As a gay man who has attended drag shows and clubs, Maragani stated, "Drag shows are inherently sexual, they are intended to be subversive. And just as an example, they're currently being used to promote gender dysphoria to children."

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On his campaign page, Representative King, a father of four girls and stepfather to three children, mentions his service as a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest religious sect in Utah. The Church has strict standards related to sexual misconduct and is known for imposing formal ecclesiastical discipline on members for sexually abusive conduct.

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Earlier this month, King opposed the highly debated Utah transgender bathroom bill that would prohibit biological males from using women's bathrooms in public places. He argued that existing laws against voyeurism, lewdness, public indecency, and sexual assault were sufficient, negating the need for additional legislation.

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The "Lewdness Involving a Child Amendments" bill amends the previous law, which did not include measures related to the actions of lewd and sexualized drag shows and similar performances. The bill was prompted by the HBO series, "We're Here," which featured a drag show in the small town of St. George in Southern Utah in June 2022.

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Alexis Ence, a resident of St. George, told The Post Millennial that the drag show led to a surge in evidence of lewd and sexualized performances being sent to Representative Jack from people across Utah. She cited an incident at a local coffee shop where a child, who appeared to be no more than five years old, was present during a lap dance performed by a drag queen.

In a statement to The Post Millennial, Ence said, "No adult has the right to be lewd in front of a child; their rights end where our children’s rights begin." She questioned why Representative King would support such behaviors in front of children and pointed out that the vote on the bill was not strictly along party lines, as three Democrats voted in favor of it.

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