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Public drag show ban clears Idaho House

Lacey Daley
Boise State Public Radio

A bill banning public drag shows and other performances deemed sexually explicit is heading to the Senate.

The proposal would let a family whose minor child saw such a performance sue in civil court for up to $10,000. That kid could also recover an uncapped amount of money for “psychological” damage.

“Really, this is simply a protect the children from perverts bill,” said Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa), who supports the measure. Skaug assured House members that it would stand up to legal scrutiny if challenged.

“I do not intend to stand for any questions on this issue,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa). “It’s pretty obvious that children have no business being in this kind of environment.”

The bill defines sexual conduct as “sexually provocative dances or gestures performed with accessories that exaggerate male or female primary or secondary sexual characteristics.”

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) said that definition is so subjective that those accessories could include padded bras or tight shirts showing off someone’s muscles.

“It could cover performances of musicals like “Grease” or “Rent” or any number of mainstream shows that we’ve all seen – “Les Misérables.” It could cover Lady Gaga and Madonna concerts,” Rubel said.

Rep. Dan Garner (R-Clifton), a former local school board member, was one of several Republicans who joined Democrats in opposing the bill, also arguing that definitions were too broad.

“We had constituents that would come in and complain about the cheerleader routine or the dance team routine and I could see where this would spill over into that and could cause problems,” Garner said.

The private cause of action clause allowing parents to file civil lawsuits has appeared in a number of bills at the Idaho legislature since Texas pioneered it with its anti-abortion rights legislation prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Rubel said she believes this tactic will eventually be found unconstitutional.

“There is no way that our Founding Fathers intended to create a loophole to the Bill of Rights that you could drive 10 trucks through. This is not going to hold up.”

However, Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) said he thinks judges would use discretion in filtering frivolous lawsuits.

“In some places, there’s still common sense and hopefully individuals that are reviewing the acts that are of concern here are going to exercise that common sense,” Barbieri said.

The bill eventually passed 48-21. It still needs approval from the Senate and Gov. Brad Little before it could become law.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

James Dawson joined Boise State Public Radio as the organization's News Director in 2017. He oversees the station's award-winning news department. Most recently, he covered state politics and government for Delaware Public Media since the station first began broadcasting in 2012 as the country's newest NPR affiliate. Those reports spanned two governors, three sessions of the Delaware General Assembly, and three consequential elections. His work has been featured on All Things Considered and NPR's newscast division. An Idaho native from north of the time zone bridge, James previously served as the public affairs reporter and interim news director for the commercial radio network Inland Northwest Broadcasting. His reporting experience included state and local government, arts and culture, crime, and agriculture. He's a proud University of Idaho graduate with a bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. When he's not in the office, you can find James fly fishing, buffing up on his photography or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.