Republican lawmakers in Ohio have filed a bill that would clamp down on drag performances by minors as “child exploitation.”
Ohio representative Tim Schaffer has proposed a bill in the state legislature seeking to clamp down on performances by “a child under eighteen years of age or a mentally or physically handicapped child under twenty-one years of age,” in a response to a performance by a nine-year-old drag queen.
Offenders could face up to six months in prison and a $1000 fine, while violations of the law could lead to venues being stripped of their liquor licenses.
Ohio Republicans want to outlaw child drag show
In a release, Schaffer confirmed the bill was a response to “a performance by a child in a local bar [that] concerned numerous citizens throughout Fairfield County.”
Nine-year-old performer Jacob Measley and his family have faced a tidal wave of threats and abuse after he performed as “Miss Mae Hem” as a drag event.
His mother Jerri Measley explained told the Toledo Blade that her son decided to take up drag after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Measley added that she does not allow her son to perform to songs with sexual lyrics, and that she closely monitors his performances, which consist of dance moves he learned in gymnastics and dance class.
She said: “Jacob is just a guy who likes to dress up and dance and feel pretty… it’s kind of like Halloween every time he has the opportunity to do it.”
Republican lawmaker Tim Schaffer compares child drag show to human trafficking
Schaffer claimed that show was “a very bad example of parenting,” and likened the performance to human trafficking.
He said: “Given our heightened focus on human trafficking and the role money plays in trafficking children, I knew I had to take action to make sure this activity does not occur again.
“We can do better to protect innocent children and we must do better.”
Schaffer’s bill is co-sponsored by eight other Republican lawmakers, the majority of whom have anti-LGBT records.
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The specific wording of the bill would outlaw any performance “that suggests a minor is participating or engaging in sexual activity, masturbation, or bestiality and that, taken as a whole by the average person applying contemporary community standards, appeals to prurient interest.”
There was no suggestion in the show that Measley was “participating or engaging in sexual activity, masturbation, or bestiality,” but campaigners are worried that it could be used to clamp down indiscriminately.
Local LGBT+ campaigner Kristen Angelo said: “There is nothing wrong with what Jacob is doing. Nothing sexual, nothing inappropriate.”
The mayor of Lancaster, David Scheffler, stressed that contrary to claims being spread online, the performer “was fully clothed and was not touched by anyone in the audience.”
He added that there “have been serious threats of violence” following misleading claims being spread about the performance.
Other underage drag performers like Desmond Napoles have had a similar backlash.