Controversy surrounding Senate Bill 12, which aims to restrict “sexually oriented performances” and drag shows to protect minors, has stirred up concerns that it could have far-reaching implications beyond its intended scope.
The Dallas Morning News asked three Texas lawyers specializing in government regulation and constitutional law to take a look at the bill. David Coale of Dallas, William X. King of Houston and University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law professor Brian Owsle, came to the conclusion that the bill is “so broad and vague that it could be interpreted to criminaliza a slew of commonplace behaviors.”
Senate Bill 12 was crafted to keep minors from attending what its author, Bryan Hughes, has described as “sexually explicit” performances by drag queens. However, as the bill is drafted, adults who aren’t in drag could also be arrested or fined for anything from dirty dancing to bachelorette parties.
The attorneys argued that the bill includes vague descriptions of new crimes, specifically targets people “exhibiting” as the opposite sex, is overly broad in its definitions of “sexually oriented,” and lacks discussion of an alleged lawbreaker’s intent.
They also warn that the bill could have varying applications depending on the discretion of local prosecutors, making commonplace behaviors potentially criminal affairs depending on the county one is in.
Here are five ways you could potentially get in trouble under the new Texas bill, according to the lawyers consulted by The Dallas Morning News.
1. Dirty Dancing
Performers could get in trouble if they pretended to grab the backside or simulated some other sexual act with someone else on stage, the lawyers said.
Not only do performers like Miley Cyrus, Madonna, or Cardi B, come to mind, but also spectators who get caught “dirty dancing,” could be judged. Since the bill doesn’t specify the term “performer,” local prosecutors could go after audience members that are caught on the big screen or in viral videos.
2. Bachelorette Parties
Since the bill includes “the exhibition” of sex toys and the “representation” of genitals as big no-no’s and doesn’t define “performer,” the girls on bachelorette parties could also be targets of investigation.
3. Movies and other recorded materials
According to the lawyers, showing a movie that portrays any of the prohibited behavior to minors could result in penalties under the bill. It’s worth noting that the bill doesn’t specifically state that the performances must be live.
4. Academics and art
If a college professor is teaching a class on anatomy or hygiene or art, could they get swept up into this, Coale asked.
Just last month, a charter school principal in Florida resigned after parents complained that their kids were exposed to pornography in a Renaissance art class. The pornography in question? Michelangelo’s David.
5. Parades and public LGBTQ+ events
If the bill becomes law, it would “shut down any Pride parade you ever have,” said the lawyers.
The bill targets individuals who present themselves as the opposite sex through their clothing, makeup, or other physical markers while performing in front of an audience.
According to the bill, if a person’s performance is considered “sexually oriented” and inappropriate for minors, they can be arrested. Additionally, even if no children are present during the performance, the performer could still be arrested if it is believed that a child could potentially come across the scene.