Hegar’s office has been investigating various bars that hosted drag events that had children in attendance. If found to qualify as “sexually oriented businesses,” those establishments would be liable for backdated fees associated with businesses like strip clubs. State law requires a $5 tax per entrant for all sexually oriented businesses, and grassroots conservative groups had called on that status to be applied to these bars — a charge that was the subject of the comptroller’s investigations.
Additionally, children are already prohibited from entering sexually oriented businesses in Texas.
But due to recent court decisions, what constitutes “clothed” under state code is quite broad. One decision held that even diminutively applied latex spray paint met the standard of clothed.
The issue boiled over when Dallas gay bar Mr. Misster held a “Drag the Kids to Pride” event in June featuring scantily clad drag queens dancing in front of attendees, including children. The bar’s makeshift catwalk was backdropped by neon lettering which read, “It’s not gonna lick itself.”
Hegar pointed to Mr. Misster in his statement put out on Thursday by the Grassroots America: We the People PAC.
“As a father of 3 children, I completely understand the frustration of Texans who want something done immediately, as I personally find this behavior abhorrent and reprehensible,” Hegar’s statement said.
“It runs counter to the values that Texans cherish regardless of political affiliation. I share that frustration as it is clear that children should not participate in, nor attend these events. We absolutely need additional provisions in Texas law to protect children.”
Hegar then said that those provisions must be secured in the penal code on top of the tax code.
But assessing current law, Hegar added, “Unfortunately, while the text of the current statute might appear to give me an avenue to designate these as sexually oriented businesses, the reality is more complex.”
“Texas’ sexually oriented business laws have been significantly watered down by the courts over the last decade. The courts have even ruled that a thin layer of latex paint sprayed on to otherwise nude dancers constitutes clothing,” he added, homing in on the ruling mentioned above.
“This is exactly why Texas laws need to be updated and strengthened. Losing this fight is not an option, and I will not allow activist courts to further undermine Texas values by engaging in a legal battle without having the proper statutory support needed to win that battle.”
Hegar further said his office’s investigations into sexually oriented businesses will continue and that he’ll push for more robust legislation next session.
Earlier this month, Hegar received criticism from the Texas Family Project (TFP) and the American Principles Project (APP) over a lack of a fine levied at Mr. Misster. After Hegar’s statement made the rounds, Chris Hopper of TFP said in a response, “Today’s statement from Glenn Hegar is a win for conservatives.”
“We disagree with Hegar’s decision to not fine Mr. Misster and have always believed current state law is far from adequate and that all of the other drag shows in Texas are sadly legal, until the legislature takes action. This is why we worked at the Texas GOP convention to ensure that ending the sexualization of children was a legislative priority. Now it’s up to the legislature, and we look forward to ensuring they take action in 2023.”
What separates the Mr. Misster event from the others, according to those calling for fines, is that one dancer’s buttocks were partially exposed. That, TFP and APP argue, surpasses even the broad standards set by the court ruling.
But ultimately, even if it was applied in this instance, Hegar’s authority only stretches to dollars and cents, which is why the comptroller and TFP in its response called for new criminal prohibitions and penalties from the legislature.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.