House Bill 3616, the so-called “Defense of Children’s Innocence Act,” doesn’t actually help children. Instead, it would severely limit drag performance and potentially other expressive acts in South Carolina by placing limitations on performances “in which a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer's gender assigned at birth.”
Additionally, this bill would require any local business that hosts a drag show to be designated a “sexually oriented business.” It would impose criminal penalties up to 10 years of prison and a $5,000 fine for anyone who allows a person under 18 years old to see a drag performer.
We oppose this bill because:
- Drag is a form of creative expression, and just like dance, fashion, and music, it is protected by the First Amendment. It’s a fundamental principle of our democracy that the government can’t discriminate against people — or silence them — based on the content of their speech. This bill infringes on the First Amendment rights of performers.
- This bill censors the free expression of LGBTQ South Carolinians. It’s an attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life. These bans are being fueled by the same paranoia banning books and censoring teachers for treating all their students the same.
- These bills threaten businesses, libraries, performers, and the people they serve by putting the power to decide what’s appropriate in the hands of politicians.
The latest on H. 3616:
Lawmakers will consider the bill when the session returns in January 2024. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it will require approval before advancing to the House floor for debate.