Texas Senate passes expanded bills to restrict drag, sexual conduct in front of minors

Lauren McGaughy

The Dallas Morning News

Apr 4, 2023

The two drag show bills were expanded broadly during debate, which was punctuated by contention and raucous reaction from members of the public.

AUSTIN — The Texas Senate on Wednesday voted in favor of two bills that would restrict, and at times criminalize, drag shows and anything else deemed a “sexually oriented performance.”

Both bills were expanded broadly during debate on Tuesday, which was punctuated by contention and raucous reaction from members of the public gathered in the Senate gallery. Both bills now head to the House for more debate.

Senate Bill 12 by Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, would criminalize performances that occur or could occur in front of a minor if they appeal to the “prurient interest in sex” or meet several other definitions for “sexual conduct,” including real or “simulated” touching of the buttocks, breasts or genitals, real or simulated sex acts or the “exhibition” of sex toys.

Performers could be charged with a class A misdemeanor, and businesses who host them would face $10,000 in fines.

Originally, the bill applied to performances by a man presenting as a woman, or vice versa. On Tuesday, Hughes expanded the criminal and financial penalties to anyone engaging in “sexual conduct” regardless of their dress or gender presentation. He also expanded the definition of “public property” to include any time, place or “manner that could reasonably be expected to be viewed by a child.”

The bill was finally passed Wednesday by a vote of 20-11. Sen. Royce West of Dallas was the sole Democrat to vote in favor. During initial debate Tuesday, two Democrats — Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen and West — voted in favor. But Hinojosa’s staff later told The Dallas Morning News that he would be changing both of his votes to opposed because amendments to the bill weren’t accepted.

Royce West montage