Republicans in Idaho Are Trying to Outlaw Public Drag Shows

The president of the right-wing Idaho Family Policy Center, which reportedly helped draft a bill to ban the shows, compared drag to blackface.
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LWA/Dann Tardif/Getty Images

It didn’t take long for conservatives to go from trying to stop kids from encountering drag queens to trying to suppress drag itself, even for adults. 

The president of a right-wing think tank, the Idaho Family Policy Center, told the Idaho Capital Sun Tuesday that the group had worked on legislation to ban drag shows in public, which would be introduced as soon as the new legislative session begins in January, though he refused to share the text with the outlet or name the legislators involved in the proposal. 

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“No child should ever be exposed to sexual exhibitions like drag shows in public places, whether that’s at a public library or a public park,” the group’s president, Blaine Conzatti, told the Capital Sun

Conzatti also reportedly compared drag to blackface, according to the Capital Sun. “You overemphasize certain natural characteristics so much that it becomes a caricature of itself,” he said.

The Idaho Family Policy Center did not immediately respond to questions from VICE News asking for more information about the bill and its supporters in the Legislature. 

Conzatti cited as one “sexual exhibition” a false allegation that one drag performer had exposed himself to children during a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene. Police later determined a video purportedly showing the incident had been doctored, and the performer has since sued the far-right Idaho blogger who posted it, according to the Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press

Idaho GOP chair and state Rep. Dorothy Moon did not address questions about whether the state party supported the proposal, but she told VICE News in an email that the Idaho GOP is “opposed to the sexualization of children, including ‘family-friendly’ or ‘all-ages’ drag shows.” The events she is referring to include drag queens reading children’s books to kids at public libraries; Conzatti’s comments, moreover, indicated the proposal would apply to drag shows in public spaces even for adults.

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Last month, Moon demanded that corporate sponsors withdraw their support for the Boise Pride Festival, the Capital Sun reported

The office of Idaho’s Republican Gov. Brad Little did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News. Sen. Chuck Winder and Rep. Scott Bedke, the two Republicans who lead the state Senate and House, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News. 

The campaign against drag shows has escalated dramatically this year, in tandem with conservative efforts to restrict medical care and public acknowledgment and acceptance of transgender people under the guise of protecting children.

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Idaho has been on the forefront of some of these proposals, with Gov. Little signing bills in 2020 to prevent transgender girls from playing girls’ high school sports and prohibiting transgender people from correcting their birth certificates. A push to make it a felony punishable by up to life in prison for doctors and other adults who help trans teens access gender-affirming care passed the House but was opposed by Senate leaders

Idaho, like much of the country, has also seen an uptick of violence towards LGBTQ+ people in general. In June, Coeur d’Alene police arrested dozens of white supremacists who allegedly planned to disrupt the city’s Pride festival, and charged them with conspiracy to riot. Trials in the cases began last month. 

Boise police also said last week that a man had been charged with multiple felonies for aggravated assault for allegedly driving his car at people on two separate occasions, yelling homophobic slurs, and burning an LGBTQ+ flag. 

At least 82 transgender people have been murdered in the U.S. since 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

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