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Democrats in danger and playing defense

Pro-LGBT Senate allies Reid, Feingold, Boxer face tough re-election battles



U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is one of several pro-LGBT lawmakers facing a tough battle for re-election this fall. (Photo courtesy of Reid's office)

Several veteran senators viewed as supportive of LGBT rights are facing tough re-election campaigns, prompting some activists and lobbyists to gear up for a defensive battle this fall.

Mike Mings, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s political action committee, said his organization is “certainly aware” that Democrats face a more difficult environment than in the previous two congressional elections.

“I think the Democrats were able to play offense in the last two cycles in a way that has created a different field today,” he said. “So, they’re [now] really looking at defense.”

Recently published polls brings into stark relief the troubling news for several incumbent U.S. senators. Rasmussen unveiled numbers last week showing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) trailing potential Republican opponents by double digits.

According to the polls, Reid would lose in a match with former Nevada Republican Party Chair Sue Lowden, 54-39; in a contest between Reid and former State Assembly member Sharron Angle, he trails 51-40; and in a contest against attorney Danny Tarkanian, Reid comes up short again, 49-42.

Viewed as an LGBT ally on Capitol Hill, Reid was involved last year in the decision to attach the hate crimes bill to the defense authorization bill and has often spoken in favor of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the U.S. military.

Also last year, Reid was the highest-ranking elected public official to endorse the National Equality March in D.C. A Mormon, Reid also reportedly criticized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for backing Proposition 8, which ended same-sex marriage in California.

Another longtime senator who could face an uphill re-election fight is Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.). A Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College poll published last week found him behind Tommy Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services who’s reportedly considering entering the Senate race.

In a hypothetical matchup, Feingold would lose to Thompson 45-33, according to the poll.

In 1996, Feingold was one of 14 senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act. Now a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and legislation to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Feingold introduced a resolution earlier this year to condemn legislation pending in Uganda that would institute the death penalty as punishment for those convicted of homosexual acts.

Also facing a tough re-election bid is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). A poll published late last month by the Public Policy Institute of California found her in a dead heat with three potential Republican opponents.

According to the poll, Boxer would be essentially tied with former congressman Tom Campbell, with him leading 44-43. She would also be in a dead heat with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, with Boxer leading 44-43. Late last month, The Hill newspaper’s election forecasters moved the race from “leans Democratic” to “toss-up.”

Boxer was also among the 14 senators to vote against DOMA in 1996. A co-sponsor of ENDA and of legislation to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Boxer last month introduced a bill that would allow same-sex domestic partners to have the same access to COBRA benefits as married couples in some circumstances.

Rose Kapolczynski, Boxer’s campaign manager, said the senator has “always expected a tough race” and has been “working for months to build a broad coalition of Californians from every background and walk of life.”

“With the active involvement of our supporters in the LGBT community and so many others, we will be able to reach out to the millions of Californians who will vote in November,” Kapolczynski said. “We need to do more to let California voters know that Barbara Boxer is focused on creating jobs and turning the economy around.”

The campaigns for Feingold and Reid didn’t respond to DC Agenda’s request for comment.

Mings said he couldn’t predict whether these senators would emerge victorious in their re-election campaigns. Still, he noted that they have an advantage because they’re incumbents, who traditionally fare better in elections.

“It’s not necessarily as big an advantage this year to be an incumbent as it is in other cycles, but it’s still [a] humongous advantage to be [an] incumbent, in terms of visibility, in terms of the organization and operations that they have, so I certainly wouldn’t count any of them out,” Mings said.

Hari Sevugan, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement that it’s important for LGBT people to support these Democrats in their re-election campaigns because the party “values equality, inclusion and fairness.”

“From expanding partnership benefits in the workplace to lifting the ban on travel for those living with HIV/AIDS, from passage of hate crimes legislation to beginning to end [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] — we have worked to advance gay-rights in all corners of our society,” he said. “It’s not where we want to be yet, but we are moving forward.”

Sevugan warned “the progress we made could be lost” and “we could once again move backward” if Democrats aren’t re-elected or lose their control of Congress.

“We’ve seen what’s happened in Virginia where a Republican governor has taken the Commonwealth backward in history,” he said. “That is why we are committed to working with the LGBT community to elect allies that will continue to move the country toward fulfilling its promise of equality and justice for all.”

Mings said HRC has already given the maximum allowed donations of $10,000 each to Reid and Boxer to help them with their re-election campaigns. For Feingold’s race, Mings said HRC is waiting to see if Thompson will enter the fray.

“If he does, obviously, that changes our calculation quite a bit,” Mings said. “We need to step in and make sure that we’re engaging our membership in Wisconsin as much as possible to help [Feingold].”

In addition to moving to protect senators, Mings said HRC donated the maximum of $5,000 last year to many vulnerable allies in the U.S. House who are part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline Program.

“We don’t support all of those folks because some of them are pretty conservative Southerners or just conservative Blue Dogs, but we did make endorsements of a lot of those folks in late 2009 and made PAC contributions to them to try and help them with early money to boost their early financial filings,” Mings said.

Marty Rouse, HRC’s national field director, said his organization for now is focused on field work that seeks to persuade key senators to vote in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and is “still trying, where we can, to mobilize in support of ENDA, expecting a vote in the House in next couple weeks.”

But around mid-to-late summer, Rouse said HRC will “pivot big time and shift all of our resources” to re-electing supporters in Congress, especially in the Senate.

“Clearly it’s going to take a few months to really flesh out, but our membership is already being messaged that our No. 1 priority this fall is going to be to re-elect our friends and mobilize our members as much as possible,” Rouse said.

Rouse said HRC will be as “strategic as possible” in determining the best way to support its allies, but it’s too early to say what exactly the plan will be. Rouse noted that polling data for these races is still early and many states still have primary elections.

“What is clear right now is that we’ll be spending the significant amount of our resources on defense and protecting our friends and making sure that they’re back there in 2011 and beyond,” he said.

Even with HRC’s field team working to re-elect these senators, Rouse said it’s important for LGBT people to look to themselves to ask what they’re doing to help in the election.

“One can discuss and look at the polls about where Harry Reid is, how’s he doing, and what’s going on, but the fact of the matter is we need to make sure that anyone we know that lives in Nevada is working as hard as they can to help re-elect Harry Reid,” Rouse said. “So we can ask those questions, but we really have to ask, ‘What are you doing to make sure that Harry Reid gets re-elected? What are you doing to help make sure Barbara Boxer gets re-elected?’”

Rouse said it’s important that LGBT people are visible and working to help the re-election of congressional supporters.

“Once we’re in full election mode, we need to be there on the campaign trail supporting our allies and working really hard to be visible in helping them be re-elected because they will remember that we are there,” he said.

But could incumbent lawmakers become victims of political apathy among LGBT people if legislative priorities like ENDA and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” don’t move this year?

Michael Cole, an HRC spokesperson, said LGBT voters are “certainly” looking to this Congress for “action on pressing equality issues” and will be mindful of this progress as November approaches.

“That being said, there are a number of pro-LGBT champions up for reelection this year who have the record to deserve whole hearted support from the community,” he said.

But Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director for GOProud, a gay conservative group, said LGBT voters should carefully consider whether to support incumbent lawmakers this year.

“There [are] a lot of issues that gay people care about and there isn’t a single one of those Democrats, in my opinion, who have done anything that I would deem worthy of re-election,” LaSalvia said. “So ask yourself as a gay voter, ‘Well, what have they done that I agree with?’ And I’ll bet you that gay and lesbian [voters] can look at any of those senators and say, ‘You’re fired!’”

Should enough Democrats lose their seats this fall, control of either chamber of Congress could switch hands. Republicans would have to take 10 seats in the Senate and 41 seats in the House to regain control of both chambers of Congress. Such a loss of control would recall the 1994 election, when Republicans retook control of the House and Senate during Democratic President Bill Clinton’s first term in office.

LaSalvia said it’s too early to tell whether Democrats will lose control of Congress this fall, but noted that the situation would become clearer as the year progresses.

“I think it’s way too early to tell, but certainly they would lose seats, and all signs [show] gains by the Republicans,” he said. “I think that we’ve got a long summer ahead of us and the electoral picture and landscape will be a lot clearer when we get to September.”

Mings said he didn’t think Democrats would lose control of Congress because not enough seats are in jeopardy, but he noted that polling and fundraising numbers indicate the party will lose some seats.

“So the thing that’s important to remember is that a lot of people were caught off guard in 1994, and that’s something the Democrats are not going to let happen this time,” he said. “They’re really making sure that their folks are prepared for a really tough, brutal, expensive election and they’re out there really trying to show that their candidates are doing that.”


The White House

White House debuts new actions to protect the LGBTQ community

The administration is coordinating efforts across different federal agencies



The White House was lit in rainbow colors following the Respect for Marriage Act signing ceremony (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, during a call with reporters on Wednesday, announced a slate of new actions the administration will undertake to better protect the LGBTQ community.

These will focus on three major areas, she said: safety and security, issues for LGBTQ youth like mental health and housing insecurity, and combatting book bans.

President Joe Biden has “already developed a historic record of supporting the LGBTQ community,” Tanden said, noting that he and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden are also prepared to “host the largest Pride celebration in White House history” on Thursday evening.

At the same time, she said, LGBTQ Americans are now experiencing “a whole range of attacks” from “hateful, un-American legislation” to “a disturbing surge in violent threats.”

Administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the administration’s “community safety partnership” will “work hand in hand with LGBTQ community organizations” to provide safety training and resources, Tanden said.

For example, she said, “and it’s so unfortunate to have to say this,” but the partnership will help LGBTQ community centers “prepare for the worst” – including “bomb threats, active shooters, and cybersecurity threats – while also protecting “healthcare providers who serve the community by working with doctors and medical associations.”

Actions for LGBTQ kids that Tanden previewed on Wednesday include HHS’s development of a behavioral health care advisory for transgender and gender diverse youth, to help ensure young people are given the best evidence-based care.

On Thursday, she said, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will launch federal initiatives to combat LGBTQ youth homelessness and new regulations to “protect LGBTQ kids in foster care.”

Finally, Tanden said, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights “will appoint a new coordinator” to combat book bans, which disproportionately target, for exclusion, materials with LGBTQ characters or themes, or communities of color.

DoE’s coordinator will “offer trainings and resources to schools to help them understand that students have a right to learn free from discrimination, and that book bands may violate federal civil rights laws if they create a hostile environment for students,” Tanden said.

A senior administration official, responding to a question from the Washington Blade following Tanden’s remarks, elaborated on the scope of the community safety partnership.

Community organizations, they said, will include “health clinics, community centers, and organizations that are planning Pride celebrations, but it also includes small businesses like restaurants and bars that have been targeted because they’re run by LGBTQI+ Americans or because they host events that support that community.”

“We’ll be encouraging and reaching out directly to organizations that have been impacted by these violent threats to help make sure that they have the training and the resources they need to stay safe,” the official said.

They added that DHS and DoJ, in anticipation of the possibility that threats will increase in June, “have both been working proactively over many months leading up to Pride to communicate with state and local law enforcement about the threats that the community may face and to help local pride organizers get access to any federal safety resources they may need to help keep the community safe.”

Asked to explain how HHS’s healthcare focused initiatives will be reconciled with restrictions targeting medical interventions for trans youth in conservative states, the official noted ongoing efforts to fight back – including by federal rulemaking and litigated challenges of policies that violate Americans’ rights.

When it comes to the actions previewed by Tanden, the official said, “Almost half of LGBTQI+ youth say they seriously considered committing suicide in the past year, and that attacks on their rights have made their mental health worse. That’s a serious crisis that we want to take on and this advisory will help.”

Additionally, they said, “HHS is announcing that they’re going to release new guidance to states to help them use federal funds to offer dedicated mental health services to the LGBTQI+ community,” while “the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSA, is releasing $1.7 million in new federal funding for programs that support the health and mental health of LGBTQI+ youth by investing in programs that are focused on family affirmation.”

Responding to other questions about anti-LGBTQ legislation and the rising transphobic and anti-LGBTQ sentiment in America, the official offered some insight into the Biden-Harris administration’s positions on these matters more broadly.

“Part of our role here is to lift up the stories of transgender kids and their families to help the American people understand what is happening to families who, as the President says aren’t hurting anyone but are being hurt by these laws,” said the official.

“These aren’t just attacks on the rights of LGBTQI+{ Americans, they are part and parcel of a coordinated attack on our democracy,” they said. “We’re not just talking about laws that target transgender kids. These are really laws that get at the heart of our basic freedoms and values: the right to free expression, the right to make decisions about your own body, the right to parent and raise your children.”

The official added, “Opponents of LGBTQI+ Americans are leading a pretty significant campaign of disinformation,” which have included “the same types of hateful lies and stereotypes that have been used against our community really for decades and for generations.”

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Calif. school district meeting over LGBTQ studies turns violent

Police officers and protestors clashed outside Glendale Unified School Board meeting



(YouTube screenshot from KCAL)

Police officers and protestors clashed outside a meeting of the Glendale Unified School Board over LGBTQ studies and the GUSD polices on addressing LGBTQ related issues.

News footage from CBS Los Angeles KCAL showed approximately 50 Glendale police officers attempting to keep the two groups separated and then fists were thrown as both sides engaged in physical assaults. A Glendale police spokesperson confirmed that some arrests had been made but wouldn’t comment further.

Witnesses and news crews noted that many of those protesting against the LGBTQ community were from the same group that had protested at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, angered over a Pride month assembly. Officers from the LAPD’s North Hollywood Community Station responded and there were physical assaults as well.

The situation in Glendale has become increasingly acrimonious. Last year during Pride month, a third grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Tammy Tiber, had enraged some parents after speaking to her students about LGBTQ topics on Zoom. The GUSD officials later transferred her because Tiber had told them she no longer felt safe.

A spokesperson for the district said that all materials are vetted by the GUSD, and are in full compliance with curriculum that deals with LGBTQ history, mandated under California’s FAIR Education Act, which was signed into law on July 14, 2011, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

It amends the California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in history and social studies curriculum.

Last month on May 18, a man who is not the parent of a child in the district, accused GUSD school board vice president Jennifer Freemon of concealing consistent attempts to “indoctrinate” students on LGBTQ issues.

“They are saying boys can be girls and girls can be boys,” Henry said during the board meeting. “If you believe in that, that is your opinion, and if that is your official policy, Jennifer, that is indoctrination because it offends a lot of people’s actual doctrine.”

As an example of instructing students to “behave inappropriately,” Henry referenced an alleged recent incident involving a student with special needs. GUSD student Thelma Gonzalez, who spoke later in the meeting, was allegedly asked to provide the definition of “scissoring” during a health lesson, despite her mother requesting that she be excused.

“A violation of their doctrine, their Christian doctrine,” Henry said, referring to Gonzalez and her mother. “Regardless of what you think, what I think, what the community thinks about any faith, you violated that. And if you don’t condemn that today, Jennifer, you are a hypocrite and a liar.”

He then mounted an attack on district polices regarding its transgender students.

“If you think they value your children, you’re more than entitled to think that,” Henry said. “They will not lie to you about your child, they will lie to these parents. They will conceal that private information from parents. You have enshrined that into doctrine, into policy, which is a misinterpretation of the law.”

It is not immediately clear what policy Henry was referring to. However, GUSD’s anti-discrimination policy states the district will only disclose a student’s “transgender or gender-nonconforming status” with their consent. It also mandates that a district official may discuss with that same student “any need” to confide in their parents or guardians.

Inside the Tuesday GUSD board meeting, pro- and anti-LGBTQ protesters faced off over how schools teach gender and sexuality, attendees were suddenly told to shelter in place as the violence outside escalated. The interruption came after about an hour of public comments, most of them in defense of the LGBTQ community and the district’s handling of materials and policies.

Protesters fight outside Glendale school district meeting about LGBTQ studies:


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Anti-LGBTQ laws, drag bans loom over Pride celebrations

Organizers in Florida, Texas, Montana, Tennessee coping with new restrictions



A drag queen performs at Lubbock Pride in Lubbock, Texas, in 2022. (Image courtesy Topher Covarrubio of NeverEnding Memories Photography)

Anti-LGBTQ and anti-drag laws that Republican governors have signed have prompted Pride organizers to reconsider or even cancel their events this year.

The Bozanich Photography Collaborative, which organizes St. Cloud Pride in Florida, in its statement that announced the cancellation of its June 10 event noted the state “has recently passed a number of laws that target the LGBTQIA+ community” and they have “created a climate of fear and hostility for LGBTQIA+ people.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia — signed bills that ban gender-affirming health care for minors, restrict pronoun usage in schools and require public buildings and other facilities’ restrooms and locker rooms to have “separate facilities for men and women based on biological sex.” DeSantis on that day also signed House Bill 1438, which “protects children from explicitly adult performances in all venues — including drag shows and strip clubs” and “imposes fines and license suspension for hotels and restaurants that admit a child into an adult performance.”

The Republican presidential candidate last year filed a complaint against a Miami restaurant after LibsofTikTok broadcast a video of children attending a drag show.

The DeSantis administration this year has sought to revoke the liquor license of the Hyatt Regency Miami and filed a complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation after children attended drag shows at the respective locations. 

Tampa Pride on May 18 announced the cancellation of its “Pride on the River” event. Organizers of Pridefest in Port St. Lucie only allowed those who were at least 21 years old to attend their annual event that took place in April. 

Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando has sued DeSantis over HB 1438.

The 2022 Stonewall Pride parade in Wilton Manors, Fla. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The annual Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival is scheduled to take place in Wilton Manors on June 17.

Stonewall Pride CEO Jeffrey Sterling on Monday during a telephone interview with the Washington Blade pointed out Wilton Drive, the road on which the parade and festival will take place, is a state road.

He said performers and vendors will have to abide by a series of rules that include no nudity, no lewd conduct and no vulgarity or overtly sexual language. Sterling admitted HB 1438 and the other anti-LGBTQ bills that DeSantis signed “indirectly” prompted Stonewall Pride to implement them, but he stressed they do not apply to those who attend the parade and festival. 

Sterling denied reports that suggest drag queens will not be allowed to perform.

“We need to be proud of the beauty of our culture while keeping in mind who we are entertaining,” he said. “Our standards should be that which we would use around our own children or our families’ nieces or nephews. We are performing for all ages, so the youngest in the audience should dictate the minimum standards we should adhere to.”

Miami Beach Pride took place on April 16, less than a week after Equality Florida and the Florida Immigrant Coalition issued a travel advisory for the state. The event took place before DeSantis signed HB 1438 and the three other anti-LGBTQ laws.

The annual Miami Beach Pride parade took place in Miami Beach, Fla., on April 16, 2023. (Screenshot from video courtesy of Yariel Valdés González)

The third annual PensaPride will take place in Pensacola in Florida’s Panhandle on June 24.

Sydney Robinson, who is a member of PensaPride’s board of directors, during a June 1 telephone interview with the Blade noted the all-day festival is a sober event and “family-friendly, open to all ages.”

She noted drag queens typically perform at PensaPride, but organizers are “still sort of grappling to try and do something or if we want to avoid it altogether because of the new law.” Robinson was nevertheless adamant that Pride events should continue to take place in Florida, despite DeSantis and the anti-drag bill he signed.

“I’m really disappointed with any Pride events that cancel for that reason because I think there is a way to have a vibrant Pride event that doesn’t have drag,” she said. “If you really want to follow the law, if that’s your main concern, you could easily do a wonderful Pride event and just not have that element involved.” 

“On the other end it’s like well Pride is a protest,” added Robinson. “That was the basis of Pride from the start.”

A performer at PensaPride in Pensacola, Fla., in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Ashcraft/PensaPride)

‘We’re more motivated than ever’

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on May 22 signed a bill that bans drag story hours in public schools and libraries and restricts “sexually oriented performances” on public property. (His nonbinary child urged him to veto anti-LGBTQ bills that reached his desk during this year’s legislative session.) 

Missoula Pride will take place from June 16-18.

“We’re more motivated than ever to put on just one big hell of a Pride festival,” Andy Nelson, executive director of the Western Montana LGBTQ+ Community Center, which organizes Missoula Pride, told the Blade on June 2 during a telephone interview. “This legislative session here in Montana has been devastating and we just need to come together as a community more than ever.”

Nelson noted the bill that Gianforte signed is specific to public libraries and schools. Nelson said drag queens will perform at Missoula Pride as they normally do.

“As far as drag performers performing at our street party in downtown Missoula, we’re good to go,” Nelson told the Blade. “And so we’re going to have a bunch of queens up there, like usual, doing their thing. They’ll be in the parade and we’re still going to have multiple drag events throughout the weekend.”

Missoula Pride participants in Missoula, Mont., in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Lo Hunter Photography)

A document the Department of Homeland Security shared with law enforcement and government agencies on May 11 notes anti-LGBTQ threats are increasing and are linked to “drag-themed events, gender-affirming care and LGBTQIA+ curricula in schools.” The document also warns of the potential increase in attacks against health care providers and businesses that specifically cater to LGBTQ people.

Police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho last June arrested 31 armed white nationalists who were protesting a Pride event

“We were definitely on edge,” said Nelson, who noted Coeur d’Alene is less than three hours from Missoula and the arrests took place days after Missoula Pride. “What happened there is not out of the question, that it could happen here as well.”

Nelson noted a small group of neo-Nazis with AR-15s in March protested an International Trans Day of Visibility event that took place at Missoula’s courthouse. He said a private security team and members of the Missoula Police Department will be on hand during Pride. 

“We’re definitely keeping safety and security top of mind,” said Nelson.

Missoula Pride participants in Missoula, Mont., in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Lo Hunter Photography)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on March 2 signed Senate Bill 2, which imposes fines and even jail time for “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest” on public property or where children are present.

Friends of George’s, a Memphis-based LGBTQ theater company, challenged SB 2 in federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on June 2 declared SB 2, which is also known as the Adult Entertainment Act, unconstitutional. The same federal judge temporarily blocked the law hours before it was to have taken effect.

Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders on Monday noted to the Blade that Pride events took place in Memphis, Cookeville and in other cities across the state over the past weekend.

Sanders said drag queens performed in a public park during Columbia Pride that took place on Sunday. He noted some Pride celebrations “probably did make some contingency plans or change the way their celebration went on, but many continued to have drag as part of their celebrations.”

Sanders told the Blade that activists in Tennessee remain “extremely stressed, particularly about the anti-trans laws.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the state law that bans gender-affirming care for anyone who is under 18 years old. Sanders noted that statute “continues to hang over everything,” but Parker’s ruling was something to celebrate. 

“People got a bit of relief, obviously, because of the drag ruling and people are very excited about that,” said Sanders.

Texas anti-drag bill has ‘broad and vague wording’

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on June 2 signed a law that bans gender-affirming health care for minors in his state. Senate Bill 12 — which would “regulate sexually oriented performances” and “those performances on the premises of a commercial enterprise, on public property, or in the presence of an individual younger than 18 years of age” — is currently awaiting the Republican governor’s signature.

Nick Harpster, the public relations and advocacy coordinator of Lubbock Pride, on June 1 noted to the Blade during a telephone interview that SB 12 would take effect after his city’s Pride events if Abbott were to sign it into law. 

He said SB 12 has “such a broad and vague wording and it’s left up to so much interpretation,” and questioned how it may specficially impact the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. Harpster said Texas lawmakers have definitely targeted drag queens with SB 12 and another bill that sought to defund public libraries that host drag queen story hours.

“That’s been the goal from the get go,” said Harpster.

Harpster said Lubbock Pride “may have to do some things differently” next year if Abbott signs SB 12. In the meantime, drag performances and drag story times are among the events that will take place during this year’s Lubbock Pride that will take place on June 10.

A band performs at Lubbock Pride in Lubbock, Texas, in 2022. (Image courtesy Topher Covarrubio of NeverEnding Memories Photography)

Dawn Ennis, Christopher Kane, Michael Key and Brody Levesque contributed to this story.

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