Sen. Hughes’ bills targeting sexual performances in front of children pass first vote

Sen. Hughes bills targeting sexual performances in front of children pass first votes
Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 5:27 PM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (KLTV) - Two bills regarding explicit performances in front of children passed preliminary votes in Tuesday’s Texas Senate session.

SB 12, written by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), would make sexual performances in public and commercial areas illegal if in the presence of children. This was originally largely associated with drag shows, and still includes language referring to these performances, but Hughes made it clear in today’s hearing that “sexual performance” is a broad term that covers much more than drag.

SB 1601, also written by Hughes, would halt funding for municipal libraries which allow events by the group “Drag Queen Story Hour.” These events, in which people presenting as the opposite gender read books to children, have become popular activist events recently, and Hughes has noted that several municipal libraries in Texas have hosted them. If the bill becomes law, any publicly funded library in the state which allows these events would lose access to grant money and other state funding.

In regards to SB 12, the term “prurient interest” was discussed at length; this, along with an underage presence, is the determining factor in the sexuality of shows, drag or otherwise. Prurient interest is defined as a morbid fascination with sex or nudity, and this must be proven to be true of a performance if it were to fall under the scope of the bill. As multiple questions by fellow senators pointed out, this would keep many drag shows and other performances from falling victim to SB 12.

For example, one senator was concerned that Broadway shows and other art performances would be harmed by the bill.

“I want to make sure and clarify that the legislative intent of this bill would not include shows like Mrs. Doubtfire, or Tootsie, or the instance that we also discussed where there was a woman playing the role of Peter Pan,” said Sen. Morgan LaMantia (D-South Padre Island).

Hughes assured her that because of the lack of prurient interest in sex, these types of performances would be safe.

In regards to sexual shows without underage presence, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) asked about regulation of the bill.

“So you would probably need someone to (do) a check on people coming into the show to make sure they are the proper age?” he asked.

Hughes responded that regulation of children attending would be similar to existing bars and other adult-only establishments, where children are not allowed anyway. Owners of spaces where a performance violating the bill would be in civil violation, and parents who bring their children to such an event would be in criminal violation.

Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) asked if the violations criminalized by the bill were already illegal. Hughes said that this is not entirely true; the bill creates a clear set of rules which are not currently in place.

Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) asked many questions regarding the specific qualifiers of sexuality that would make an event applicable to the bill.

“You did say kind of a misnomer here to Senator West, you said that bars would be precluded, right? But you could take your child to a bar, couldn’t you?” Gutierrez asked.

“It probably depends on what’s happening in the bar. If it’s nude dancing, then the law does not allow a child to be there even with parental consent,” said Hughes.

Many of Gutierrez’s questions were about the clothing that constituted “drag.” Hughes responded to all of these questions by restating the requirement of prurient interest in sex.

After much discussion, SB 12 passed the preliminary vote 21-10, and SB 1601 passed the first vote as well. Both bills will need to pass another round of voting before passing the senate; the final vote will be held at a later time.