PHOENIX - Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs has vetoed four bills that either directly targets drag shows in Arizona, or interpreted by some as being crafted against drag shows.
According to a statement released by the Governor's Office on June 16, Gov. Hobbs has vetoed SB1026, SB1028, SB1030, and SB1698.
Here's what you should know about the bills that are now vetoed.
What do the bills deal with?
The four bills deal with different issues, and of the four bills, only one bill - SB 1026 - specifically mention the words "drag show" in the bill.
SB1026, had it become law, would have the following effects:
- Banning state tax dollars, state money, or federal money passing through the Arizona State Treasury from being used by "any person or entity, including state-funded institution or facility, for a drag show targeting minors."
- Banning the state from distributing state tax dollars, state money, or federal money passing through the Arizona State Treasury to "any person or entity, including state-funded institution or facility, that operates a drag show targeting minors."
- Banning the state, as well as cities, towns, counties, school districts or other public bodies from receiving or using "private monies for a drag show targeting minors."
"Drag show targeting minors" is defined in the bill as:
"In-person show or performance for entertainment at which a single adult performer or group of adult performers dress in clothing and makeup opposite of the adult performer's or group of adult performers' gender at birth to exaggerate gender signifiers and roles, and engage in singing, dancing or a monologue or skit in order to entertain a target audience of persons under eighteen years of age."
Those who violate the bill would have been banned from receiving or using state monies for 36 months after their conviction.
The bill was introduced by State Sen. John Kavanaugh. The Republican lawmaker represents the state's 3rd Legislature District, which covers a portion of northeastern Maricopa County near Scottsdale.
SB1028, if passed and signed into law, would have banned a person or business from engaging in "adult cabaret performance" in the following areas:
- Public property
- A location where the person knows or has reason to know that the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a minor
Adult cabaret performance is defined in the bill as "a sexually explicit performance in a location other than an adult cabaret, regardless of whether or not the performance is for consideration," and "sexually explicit" is defined in the bill as "an intention to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires or appeal to the prurient interest."
A first violation would have counted as a misdemeanor, and all subsequent violations would have been felonies.
The bill was introduced by State Sen. Anthony Kern. The Republican lawmaker represents the state's 27th Legislature District, which covers a portion of the Northwest Valley.
SB1030 deals with zoning laws, and would have required a county's board of supervisors to "provide for the regulation and use of business licenses, adult oriented business manager permits and adult service provider permits in conjunction with the establishment or operation of adult oriented businesses and facilities, including "establishments that conduct sexually explicit performances."
The bill also added "establishments that conduct sexually explicit performances" to the definition of "adult oriented business." The bill also contains detailed and graphic description of what is considered to be "sexually explicit."
The bill was also introduced by State Sen. Kern.
According to a factsheet published by the Arizona State Legislature, SB1698, had it become law, would have established the offense of "unlawful exposure to an adult oriented performance or business" as a class 4 felony.
The factsheet states that under the bill, a person is deemed to have violated the law by knowingly:
- Allowing a minor under the person's custody or control to view an adult oriented performance or enter an adult oriented business
- Allowing a minor to enter or remain in an adult oriented business or a building or part of a building where an adult oriented performance is occurring
- Performing or allowing another person, if the other person is under control or custody of the person allowing the performance, to perform an adult oriented performance in view of a minor
The bill would have also added "unlawful exposure to an adult oriented performance or business" to the definition of child abuse and child neglect.
Under the bill, a person could have faced a 10-year prison sentence if they violated the law, and would also be required to register as a sex offender. It would also requires anyone who reasonably believes a minor is or has been a victim of "unlawful exposure to an adult oriented performance or business" to report it to law enforcement, DCS, or other appropriate government entities.
"Adult oriented performance," in this bill, is defined broadly, as it is defined as an "in-person show or performance, with or without consideration," that includes:
- A person who appears in a state of nudity or seminude
- A person whose performance is characterized by the exposure of specific anatomical areas or specific sexual activities
- A performance that is harmful to minors'
The bill was introduced by State Sen. Justine Wadsack. The Republican lawmaker represents the state's 17th Legislature District, which covers a portion of Pima County near Tucson, as well as a portion of southern Pinal County.
Why did Gov. Hobbs veto the bills?
Gov. Hobbs only issued one letter to explain her veto of all four bills.
In the letter, Gov. Hobbs states that "intolerance has no place in Arizona, despite the legislatures' frequent attempts to pass legislation that says otherwise."
"SB1026, SB1028, SB1030, and SB1698 are attempts to criminalize free expression and ostracize the LGBTQIA+ community both implicitly and explicitly, creating statutory language that could be weaponized by those who choose hate over acceptance," wrote Gov. Hobbs. "I have made it abundantly clear that I am committed to building an Arizona for everyone, and will not support any legislation that attempts to marginalize our fellow Arizonans."
Can the legislature override the vetoes?
Under Arizona's constitution, a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each of the state's legislative chambers is needed to override a veto.
There are 60 members in the State House, and 30 members in the State Senate. This means 40 members of the State House and 20 members of the State Senate need to vote to override a veto.
The Republicans, who are the majority at the State Legislature, do not have enough votes to override the vetoes on their own.
Why is there such a focus on drag shows recently?
According to an Associated Press article in October 2022, drag show, which the article defined as "the art of dressing and acting exaggeratedly as another gender, usually for entertainment such as comedy, singing, dancing, lip-syncing or all of the above," has been derided by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about the "sexualization" or "grooming" of children.
The term "grooming" in a sexual sense describes how child molesters entrap and abuse their victims. Its use by opponents of drag, as well as by protesters in other realms of LGBTQ opposition, seeks to falsely equate it with pedophilia and other forms of child abuse.
Have other states passed laws targeting drag shows?
At least some of the bills are facing legal challenges. In June 2023, a judge appointed by former President Donald Trump rejected, at least temporarily, an anti-drag show bill in Tennessee as being "unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad," as well as encouraging "discriminatory enforcement."
Are drag shows a recent thing?
According to the AP, drag may trace its roots to the age of William Shakespeare, when female roles were performed by men. Drag shows could also be seen on vaudeville circuit, and during the Harlem Renaissance, which Encyclopaedia Britannica defined as an age of blossoming of African American culture from 1918 to 1937.
Drag shows have became a mainstay at gay bars in the 20th century, and remains so.
Are drag shows sexual?
According to the AP, many drag opponents cite nudity in their objections.
While every performer makes different choices, drag queens often wear more, not less, clothing than one might see on a typical American woman of the 21st century, at a public beach or on network television.
Their costumes tend toward extravagant, sometimes floor-length gowns. Drag queens may use false breasts, wear sheer costumes, and use makeup or other means to show cleavage and appear exaggeratedly feminine.
The difference, performers note, is that opponents of drag see sexual deviance in the cross-dressing aspect.
Drag does not typically involve nudity or stripping, which are more common in burlesque, a separate form of entertainment. Explicitly sexual and profane language is common in performances meant for adult audiences. Such routines can consist of stand-up comedy that may be raunchy — or may pale in comparison with some mainstream comedians.
Do drag shows "turn" children gay or transgender?
According to the AP, despite some opponents’ claims, drag cannot "turn" a child gay or transgender, although its playful use of gender may be reassuring to kids who are already questioning their identity.
That way, therapist Joe Kort wrote in a blog post in Psychology Today, gender-nonconforming kids can have "other templates as they begin to sort out their feelings about who they authentically are."
Should kids watch drag shows?
According to the AP, it is up to parents and guardians to decide that, just as they decide whether their children should be exposed to or participate in certain music, television, movies, beauty pageants, concerts or other forms of entertainment, citing parenting experts.
Performances in nightclubs and brunches meant for adults may not be suitable for children, while other events, such as drag story hours, are tailored for children and therefore contain milder language and dress.
Drag performers and the venues that book them generally either don’t allow children if a performance has risque content, or else require children to be accompanied by a parent or guardian — basically, how R-rated movies are handled by theaters.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.