Proposed Alabama bill latest to crack down on drag shows: ‘Could criminalise a day at the beach’

A picture of Arnold Mooney.

Yet another bill aiming to suppress public drag shows has been proposed in the US – this time, in Alabama.

Legislation filed by Republican Arnold Mooney on Thursday (27 April) would prohibit “male or female impersonators, commonly known as drag queens or drag kings” from performing in public areas where under-18s could be present.

Bill HB401 uses incredibly vague and undefined language, similar to past bills that have been pushed through state Houses, that could extend to banning pantomime shows and some of Shakespeare’s plays.

If passed, the bill would extend punishments in the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act to performers “who are dressed in sexually revealing, exaggerated or provocative clothing or costumes”.

The ban specifically targets what it describes as “go-go or exotic dancers, or male or female impersonators”.

Central Alabama Pride (CAP) described the proposed law as an “outrageous attack on freedom of expression” in a statement following its introduction.

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“Drag performances have long been a source of empowerment, resilience and unity for our community,” CAP president Josh Coleman said.

“Banning them is an affront to our fundamental rights.

“Additionally, in its haste to assault the LGBTQ+ community, the Alabama legislature has drafted a bill so broad that it could criminalise a day at the beach.

“This crusade to legislate subjective notions of morality threatens the liberty of every Alabamian.

Central Alabama Pride urged lawmakers to reconsider the “discriminatory” bill, as well as advocating for the public to join in “the fight against this harmful legislation”.

They added: “The bill is a clear violation of the First Amendment rights to free speech and expression and will further perpetuate discrimination and marginalisation.”

Tennessee in hot water over anti-drag legislation postponement

The proposal of HB401 swiftly follows controversy surrounding a drag ban in Tennessee that was passed near the beginning of March but blocked by a court order just days before it would have come into effect.

Senate Bill 3 was signed into law by governor Bill Lee on 2 March, making Tennessee the first state to ban public drag performances.

But before the legislation could come into effect on 1 April, a federal judge temporarily blocked it, describing it as “vague and overly broad.”

Judge Thomas Parker, who ordered the temporary restraining order, sided with LGBTQ+ theatre group Friend of George’s after it filed a lawsuit over the state’s ban.

In the order, Parker argued that the language in the bill means that bans on drag could be applied “just about anywhere”/

“What exactly is a location on public property or a ‘location where an adult cabaret entertainment could be viewed by a person who is not an adult?’

“Ultimately, the statute’s broad language clashes with the First Amendment’s tight constraints.”

Parker then extended the restraining order on 9 April, meaning the law will now not go into effect until 26 May.