The North Dakota House of Representatives has voted to advance legislation that criminalizes adult drag shows in public venues or in the presence of anyone under the age of 18.
The bill (HB 1333) passed overwhelmingly with a 79-13 vote and adds to existing laws regulating obscenity.
Anyone who violates the new law would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor for a first offense, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and up to a $3,000 fine.
If an individual is charged with a second or subsequent offense, it would be considered a class C felony, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.
Rep. Brandon Prichard, who sponsored the bill, said that he brought the legislation after becoming aware of drag shows being performed in front of children, including on the steps of the state Capitol building, according to the Bismark Tribune.
He told the local news outlet that he believes the state’s existing obscenity laws should have prohibited the performances, but wanted to advance new legislation to make clear that the shows are not allowed publicly or in front of minors.
Rep. Lori VanWinkle, who supported HB 1333, calls adult drag performers “perverts” and said the bill safeguards children in a community that has failed to do so.
“We cannot let right and wrong be based on the subjective thoughts of our culture, (which) can apparently no longer differentiate what is moral behavior,” VanWinkle told the Tribune. “Are we ready to next allow pedophilia in North Dakota so our newly sexualized-driven children can act out on what they’re learning from perverts who are demanding them from us?”
Opponents of the bill, however, argue that the new law would marginalize “certain people who live in our state,” the Tribune reported.
“I would hope that we leave this up to parents,” North Dakota House Minority Leader Josh Boschee told the Tribune. “We already have laws that restrict where people can perform with nudity or without nudity, so this further expansion is nothing more than continuing to police morality.”