88th LegislatureIssuesState HouseTexas Lawmaker Files Bill Allowing Minors to Sue Drag Performers

A bill opponents call a "drag bounty hunter" law will attempt to disincentive drag performances by allowing minors in attendance to take legal action.
March 14, 2023
A Texas lawmaker has filed a bill aimed at disincentivizing children’s presence at drag performances by allowing a minor in attendance to levee civil action against the performer.

State Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) filed House Bill (HB) 4378, which will define “drag performances” as a performer who “exhibits a gender that is different from the performer’s gender recorded at birth … and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs in a lascivious manner before an audience.”

“Lascivious” is defined as conduct that is sexual or “offensive to community standards of decency.”

A minor who attends a drag performance will have the ability to bring a civil action against one who “knowingly promotes, conducts, or participates” in the performance, and if the claim prevails in court then statutory damages of $5,000 will be rewarded. A defendant, in this case, will be restricted from claiming that the child was accompanied by a parent or guardian.

This bill gained attention online after a transgender rights activist posted details of the legislation calling it a “bounty hunter drag ban.” Her accusation refers to the damages reward, claiming it would cause individuals to seek out these types of events to file lawsuits.

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This is similar to accusations of Senate Bill (SB) 8, the Texas Heartbeat Act, which opponents claimed was an “abortion bounty law.” The statute allows individuals to file a lawsuit against anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion and be awarded $10,000 in damages.

These accusations were challenged after a Texas physician publicly admitted to violating SB 8 and was sued by a former Chicago lawyer seeking to gain an understanding of the accountability statutes.

That case was dismissed in a San Antonio court last December. Judge Aaron Haas of Bexar County District Court stated from the bench that the ruling was based on the language stating only a person directly impacted by the abortion services in question, not just anyone, has standing to sue under SB 8.

Because Toth’s bill’s language on accountability and reward share similar language, Haas’ ruling gives insight into how future cases involving Toth’s bill might be handled.

Children and their exposure to drag shows is a priority issue for the Texas Legislature this session. State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) filed SB 12, which seeks to regulate “sexually oriented performances” as a means to protect minors from being exposed to those types of events.

The attention Texas drag events have garnered has prompted investigations from the Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

“This is exactly why Texas laws need to be updated and strengthened,” Hegar said in response to a “Drag the Kids to Pride” event at a Dallas gay bar in June 2022.

“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.”


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Cameron Abrams

Cameron Abrams is a reporter for The Texan. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Tabor College and a Master’s Degree from University of the Pacific, Cameron is finishing his doctoral studies where his research focuses on the postmodern philosophical influences in education. In his free time, you will find him listening to a podcast while training for an endurance running event.