The bill prohibits using federal funds for programs or events that contain “sexually-oriented material” geared toward children under 10, such as drag queen story hours, which have attracted the attention of conservative politicians and right-wing activists. On Tuesday, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson introduced the bill with more than 30 House Republican co-sponsors.
The introduction of this legislation is a reaction to far-right conservative outrage over innocuous drag performances that have included the presence of children at family-friendly drag events. An online video of a child attending a drag brunch at a Miami restaurant was widely circulated among right-wing Twitter users in July, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a federal complaint against the restaurant in which he cited a 1947 state Supreme Court ruling that “men impersonating women” constitutes a public nuisance, The Hill reports.
The outlet notes that Johnson’s proposal, the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act, says government agencies on the federal and state level, including the Department of Defense, have used federal funds in the past to promote and host “sexually-oriented events” like drag queen story hours for children.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in May obsessed about a drag queen story hour event scheduled at a U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany, and pushed to have the military cancel it. He also included drag panic in one of his campaign commercials recently, leading to drag queen Lil Miss Hot Mess and GLAAD asking why the Republican lawmaker is so obsessed with drag queens.
In a move that harkens back to the 1984 movie Footloose, when Kevin Bacon’s character discovers a small midwestern town in which dancing was made illegal, Republicans once again prove that life imitates art.
Specifically, the legislation prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding programs, events, or literature that expose children younger than ten to “lewd or lascivious dancing.”
Although children in the United States are not being exposed to inappropriate sexual behavior, nor are they being sexualized — in fact, a GLSEN study released Tuesday shows that most kids don’t even learn about LGBTQ+ topics in school — the bill reveals its actual bigotry within its text.
It defines “sexually-oriented material” as images, descriptions, and simulations of sexual acts, genitalia, or “any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects.”
Harvard’s Cyber Law Clinic instructor Alejandra Caraballo described the bill as a federal version of Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’s “don’t say gay” law.
“Universities, public schools, hospitals, medical clinics, etc. could all be defunded if they host any event discussing LGBTQ people and children could be present,” she wrote on Twitter. “The way they define “sexually oriented material” simply includes anything about LGBTQ people.”
Caraballo warns that one enforcement mechanism in the bill is similar to Texas’ SB8, which made ordinary citizens bounty hunters if they suspected a person was involved with an abortion.
“It includes a private right of action against any government official AND private entity for a violation,” she writes. “This is SB8 style bounty lawsuits against anyone accepting federal funds. This will be a ban on all discussion of LGBTQ people in any entity that received federal funds.”