A TexasRepublican lawmaker proposed a bill allowing everyday people to sue anybody who hosts or performs in drag where any child is in attendance. Critics say the measure will create a bounty-hunting culture that targets drag queens and transgender people.
Houston-area state Rep. Steve Toth filed HB 4378 on Thursday. He seeks to define “a cause of action for drag performances performed in the presence of a minor.”
According to the bill, “An individual who attends a drag performance as a minor may bring an action against a person who knowingly promotes, conducts, or participates as a performer in the drag performance that occurs before an audience that includes the minor….”
A winning plaintiff can expect to be paid actual damages, attorney’s fees, and statutory damages of $5,000.
The bill uses the same tactics of the controversial 2021 SB 8 in Texas, which gave private citizens the right to sue anybody they thought could have been involved with any part of an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
This election cycle, Republicans are positioning themselves as the defenders of “parental rights,” which those on the right believe have been eroded by “woke” ideology being pushed secretly by teachers and professionals who work with children.
However, this bill strips parents of the right to, for example, take their children to a family-friendly brunch hosted by a drag queen.
“It is not a defense to an action brought under this chapter that the minor was accompanied at the drag performance by the minor’s parent or guardian,” the bill states.
The bill states that civil action can be brought up to ten years after the offending event.
Activists warn that the bill’s language will paint a target on transgender people and potentially make their participation in the arts illegal because of how drag is defined by the Republican legislature, which makes performing in any way representative other than one’s gender assigned at birth verboten.
For example, transgender rights activist and reporter Erin Reed points out that the bill could potentially bar Grammy-winning singer Kim Petras, the first out trans person to win the coveted award for best pop performance by a duo or group, from performing in Texas.
"These bounties can easily be turned against trans performers," Reed wrote. "It could ban a trans person singing karaoke. It could ban pride."