House Republicans take aim at public drag shows in new bill

The Ohio House is set to hear its first testimony on a bill introduced earlier this year that would ban public drag shows in Ohio and set out criminal punishments for those in violation of the law, if it were to be adopted.

House Bill 245 bans “adult cabaret performances” anywhere outside an adult cabaret venue, but defines such a performance so broadly that strippers and go-go dancers are included alongside “performers or entertainers who exhibit a gender identity that is different from the performer’s or entertainer’s gender assigned at birth.”

The law proposes a span of punishments for those who violate it. Violators would be charged with a first degree misdemeanor if the performance is in the presence of a juvenile; a fifth degree felony if the performance is obscene; and a fourth degree felony if the performance is obscene and occurs in the presence of a juvenile under 13 years old — a charge that can carry an 18 month sentence. Obscenity, as defined in the proposal, is deemed when there is an excessive interest in sexual matters.

It is set to have its first hearing on Nov. 14 at 3:15 p.m. since being introduced by Reps. Josh Williams, R-Sylvania Twp., and Angela King, R-Celina, earlier this year.

The bill has the early support of many local lawmakers, including Reps. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum; Rodney Creech, R-West Alexandria; Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester; Phil Plummer, R-Dayton; Bill Dean, R-Xenia; Bernie Willis, R-Springfield; and Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp.

Hall, who represents Middletown, told this news organization earlier this year that the town’s Pride-themed drag performance in June of this year was “absolutely sickening.” About half of the audience were minors, according to those in attendance; some were seen handing the performers money. Hall said the state needed to take action to “protect the children.”