NC House Republicans file bill to ban public drag shows, classify as a felony offense

Ethan Hyman/

Republicans in the North Carolina House introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban drag performances in public places or in the presence of a minor.

House Bill 673 classifies “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest” as adult entertainers in the same legal category as strippers. The bill does not define what constitutes “prurient interest,” nor does it say what constitutes a “male or female impersonator.”

Any drag performance done in a public space or at a venue with minors present would result in a misdemeanor on first offense and a felony for subsequent offenses.

“If folks are going to do that, or they want to have those kinds of shows, I prefer that children not be exposed to that,” Rep. Donnie Loftis, a Gastonia Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, told The News & Observer.

Groups supporting LGBTQ+ rights immediately came out in opposition to the bill.

“This is a clear violation of our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression and another attempt to remove queer and trans people from public life,” read a tweet from Equality NC, an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights. “Drag is an art form, not a crime. We unequivocally condemn this legislation.”

Last month, Tennessee passed a similar bill that was blocked by a federal judge who said the bill was “vague and overly-broad.”

Several of the bill’s sponsors are members of the far-right Freedom Caucus, but it also lists Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Winston-Salem Republican who championed Medicaid expansion, as a primary sponsor.