Bills making their way through state legislatures across the country aimed at banning drag performances are creating a climate of uncertainty as LGBTQ+ Pride month nears.

In March, in the neighboring state of Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a bill severely restricting drag shows on public property, making the state the first in the U.S. to pass such a law. Republican lawmakers in Florida followed suit in late April, passing a similar drag ban that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is expected to sign.

Last month, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Tennessee law, but that has not stopped local authorities from pressuring performers not to include drag queen in their shows, as out pop star Hayley Kiyoko recently found out. Meanwhile, in Port St. Lucie, Florida, a local Pride organization has already been forced to cancel its parade in anticipation of DeSantis signing the state’s drag ban into law.

North Carolina Republicans introduced and are considering House Bill 673, which could ban drag in public places or in the presence of anyone under 18, even if the event is a private one. An initial violation would be considered a misdemeanor, although Class A1, which is at the top the most egregious misdemeanors and places any public drag appearances in the same category as violent crimes like assault with a deadly weapon, child abuse and sexual battery, child abuse and assault with a deadly weapon. Reportedly, continuous offenses could end in felony charges.

In all, more than a dozen states have introduced bills aimed at banning drag shows. As a result, the Associated Press reports, the organizers of Pride celebrations in mostly conservative states are under pressure to censor their events, in some cases “editing” acts or canceling drag performances altogether.

“As soon as this stuff started making its way, I immediately started coming out with plans to be able to counteract that,” Vanessa Rodley, an organizer with Memphis’s Mid-South Pride Fest, said. “Because, at the end of the day, we can’t put on an event that then segregates a huge portion of our community, right? We just can’t do that. So you have to find ways around it.”

With Tennessee’s law still on hold, Mid-South Pride has reportedly booked more than 50 drag performers, but organizers like Rodley have had to come up with contingency plans should the ban go into effect in the coming weeks. Performers will reportedly not change costumes onstage and will not accept tips from the audience during their shows.

U.S. Association of Prides co-president Ron de Harte said that Pride festival organizers have been “doing their homework” to try to navigate laws that are often vaguely worded, while also having a tougher time getting permits from local city councils.

In Franklin, Tennessee, organizers of a Pride event have opted not to include drag performers in order to get permits for their events.

Drag performances at a Naples, Florida celebration will be held at an indoor venue due to safety concerns.

In Hutchinson, Kansas, festival organizers had to find a new venue for their drag queen story hour after a local business owner posted a video calling the event “depraved.” And in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, a three-member select board determined that a drag show violated restrictions on “adult entertainment” before the American Civil Liberties Union got involved.

But the tide of anti-LGBTQ+ hostility is also galvanizing the community. “I think people want to really make it known that they back us and that we should feel safe and protected in our community,” said Kayla Bates, a founder of ELGbtq+, which puts on a community Pride festival in Elgin, Illinois.

New York City’s Pride festivities, some of the biggest and most prominent in the country, are putting the focus on the transgender community and drag queens.

“They’re attacking these people because they’re less likely to stand up and fight back,” said NYC Pride co-chairperson Sue Doster, “which is why it’s important that we all come together in solidarity and speak up when we see these injustices.”

This article appears courtesy of our media partner LGBTQ Nation. 

Additional content added by Qnotes Staff.

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