Kentucky Senate advances bill to limit drag performances

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The Kentucky Senate passed a bill that would ban drag performances on public property or in front of children, sending the legislation to the state House. 

The bill passed the Senate by a 26-6 vote along party lines with one senator abstaining. Both the state Senate and House have Republican supermajorities. 

The legislation would prohibit any individual in the state from engaging in an “adult performance” on a publicly owned property or at a place where they know or should know someone under 18 years old could see it. 

It defines an adult performance as a live “sexually explicit performance” involving certain acts like those of “homosexuality,” intentional “exhibition” of genitals and exposure of unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks and the female breast. 

The definition also includes a live performance involving male or female “impersonators” who provide entertainment appealing to a prurient interest without serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. 

The first two offenses under the act would be misdemeanors, while the third and subsequent offenses would be felonies. 

The legislation states that businesses that knowingly host a performance of adult entertainment where children might be present could have their liquor or business license suspended or revoked, be denied a renewal of their business license or face other actions “deemed appropriate.” 

The bill’s approval by the state Senate follows Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signing a similar bill into law last week. 

“The intent of this legislation is to restrict these types of adult performances to adults,” said state Sen. Lindsey Tichenor (R), the lead sponsor of the bill, during debate over it. 

The Associated Press reported that Tichenor noted that a “long history” of male and female “impersonators” exists, and the bill is not addressing performances like actor Robin Williams’ in the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire.” 

She said adult performances are being opened to the public as “appropriate-for-all-ages under the guise of inclusivity,” AP reported. 

Opponents to the legislation slammed it as violating the First Amendment to the Constitution. 

State Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D), who voted against the bill, said the “expressive choices” that people make are protected by the First Amendment, including someone choosing to “dress in drag” and how they choose to express themselves generally.

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