‘Bounty hunter’ drag ban would let Texas kids sue for being taken to shows

A Black drag queen stands on stage as she holds out a microphone to kids in the audience at an event in Texas as Republican lawmakers try to ban such kid-friendly events

A Texas lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow people who attended a drag event as a minor to sue the performer.

It’s been referred to as a “bounty hunter drag ban” by LGBTQ+ advocates.

Republican congressman Steve Toth filed House Bill 4378 (HB 4378) last week, in an effort to ban drag performances of what he called a “sexual nature” in front of anyone under the age of 18. 

But Toth’s proposal goes further: it would also create a “cause of action” that would allow people who went to a drag event as a child to take the performer to court in search of financial damages.

According to the bill, any individual who attended a drag performance as a minor “may bring action against a person who knowingly promotes, conducts or participates as a performer in the drag performance that occurs before an audience that includes the minor”. 

The bill would enable lawsuits against drag events that violate the “prevailing standard in the adult community for content suitable for minors” and if the performers fail to take “reasonable steps to restrict access to the performance [to] minors”. 

You may like to watch

Under the proposed legislation, claimants could claim “actual damages” – including “psychological, emotional, economic and physical harm” – because they attended a drag event as a minor. They could also sue for “attorney’s fees and costs incurred” in bringing the case to court. 

If their claim is successful, they could receive a financial settlement of $5,000 (approximately £4,100). 

HB 4378 would also gut the ability for drag performers to defend themselves from legal action if they hosted a family-friendly event. 

A drag queen holds up a book as she reads to kids in the audience at an event in Texas as Republican lawmakers try to ban such kid-friendly events
Advocates warned the anti-drag bills in Texas could be used to attack trans people. (Getty)

According to the bill, drag queens and kings could still fall foul of a lawsuit even if parents took their kids to the show because it would “not [be] a defence” that the minor was “accompanied at the drag performance by the minor’s parent or guardian”. 

Trans activist and reporter Erin Reed described the legislation as an effort by Texas lawmakers to release a “bounty-hunter drag ban”. 

She also warned HB 4378 would have a horrific impact on the trans community as the wording in the bill defines drag as a performance in which a “performer exhibits a gender that is different than the performer’s gender recorded at birth”. 

“$5,000 bounty for hunters if a person performs while ‘exhibiting a gender that is different from gender recorded at birth’ and ‘violates the community standards of decency’,” Reed tweeted. “Anti-abortion techniques now target drag and trans people.”

She continued: “These bounties can easily be turned against trans performers. This bill would likely ban Kim Petras from performing in Texas, for instance.

“It could ban a trans person singing karaoke. It could ban Pride.”

Toth isn’t the only Texan Republican to attempt to ban drag under the guise of protecting children – a common tactic by conservatives worldwide to attack LGBTQ+ rights and the queer community. 

Just days before Toth introduced his proposed legislation, state representative Bryan Slaton filed House Bill 4129 (HB 4129) to stop “erotic drag performances” which he thinks are “sweeping our state”. 

HB 4129 seeks to make it a felony if a drag performance occurred in the presence of a child. 

Similar to HB 4378, Slaton’s bill defines drag as an “erotic performance” in which a “person exhibits a sex or gender that is different than the person’s biological sex”.

Advocates warned that the former pastor’s bill could also be used to attack trans people