Family-friendly drag performances like drag brunches and drag queen story hours have become a lightning rod for Republicans over the past year, with local far-right and anti-LGBTQ+ groups disrupting events all over the country and states like North Carolinas and Texas at the top of the list for the highest count of anti-drag anti-trams and overall anti LGBTQ activity.
While Arizona has long been a red state and bastion of conservatism, it doesn’t seem like the state where an attempt at legalizing a ban on drag shows would begin. Nevertheless, it has, and that has left LGBTQ communities nationwide concerned the movement will spread across states with a Republican stronghold like wildfire.
Arizona state Sen. Anthony Kern (R) has introduced S.B. 1030, which calls for regulation and business licenses for drag shows. Under the law, drag performances would not be allowed between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday or on Sundays between 1 a.m. and 12 p.m., according to Arizona’s Family. Another bill introduced by Kern concerns where cabaret performances can take place.
State Sen. John Kavanagh (R) also introduced a bill targeting drag shows. It aims to prevent state money from funding performances aimed at children.
“I would suspect that this session suddenly there’s an interest in regulating drag shows because culturally there’s been a sudden preponderance or abundance of drag shows that are directed at children,” Kavanagh said.
Arizona director of the Human Rights Campaign Bridget Sharpe warned that while it remains to be seen whether the bills would become law during the legislative session that begins on Monday, they have political implications. “If there’s enough interest from their party, I’m certain [Kern and Kavanaugh’s bills] could get a committee hearing. That would be the next step in the process,” Sharpe said.
Arizona’s newly elected Gov. Katie Hobbs (D), however, is an LGBTQ+ ally. On her first day in office, Hobbs extended employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to state employees and contractors. In November, Hobbs defeated Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (R), whose campaign called for banning kids from family-friendly drag performances using anti-LGBTQ+ language falsely accusing the community of “sexualizing” children.
“Ultimately we feel this is just a big waste of time knowing this bill will likely get vetoed,” said Sharpe.
“It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Richard Stevens, a well-known Phoenix-based drag queen who performs as “Barbra Seville.”
In June, Stevens responded to Lake’s anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric by posting a screenshot from Lake’s personal Instagram account showing the candidate posing with him in drag and claiming that she has attended his performances repeatedly, even bringing her children to a party at which he performed.
Stevens warned that S.B. 1030 would affect popular Sunday drag brunches. “Some of them get anywhere from 100–300 people who just want to come out. They want to laugh,” he explained.
“I don’t think if you walked up to someone at the supermarket today and said, ‘Hey, what’s a problem that’s facing you and your family?’ I bet they would list 15–20 things before they ever got around to drag shows,” Stevens said.