A proposed bill in Texas is drawing criticism for its potential to target drag queens and transgender individuals. Republican state Rep. Steve Toth introduced the bill, HB 4378, which would allow individuals to sue anyone who hosts or performs in drag in the presence of a minor. The bill has drawn comparisons to 2021’s SB 8, which gave citizens the ability to sue anyone involved in an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
The bill defines “a cause of action for drag performances performed in the presence of a minor” and allows a winning plaintiff to be awarded actual damages, attorney’s fees, and statutory damages of $5,000. The language of the bill does not allow for a defense that the minor was accompanied by a parent or guardian, which has raised concerns from activists.
Critics say that the bill’s language will create a bounty-hunting culture that targets drag queens and transgender people, potentially making their participation in the arts illegal due to the bill’s definition of drag. The bill defines drag as any performance that is not representative of an individual’s gender assigned at birth, which could bar transgender individuals from performing in Texas. Activists warn that this could be used to ban events such as karaoke or pride events.
Republicans have positioned themselves as defenders of parental rights in the current election cycle, claiming that “woke” ideology is being pushed on children by teachers and professionals. However, the bill strips parents of the right to take their children to events hosted by drag queens. The civil action can be brought up to ten years after the event, creating a potentially long-lasting impact on individuals who perform in drag.
The bill has been met with criticism and concern from activists who say that it targets marginalized communities and creates a dangerous culture of policing individuals’ identities.