Arizona Senate Republicans Pass Bills to Keep Explicit Performances Away from Children

The Arizona Senate Majority Caucus announced Thursday that two Senate bills (SBs) from State Senator Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) aimed at regulating sexually explicit performances so minors are not exposed to them passed through the floor despite receiving no Democrat support.

“Senate Democrats don’t seem to have a problem with children being exposed to sexually explicit adult performances. If they did, they would have voted in support of these two bills. Instead, all Senate Democrats voted against protecting our Arizona kids,” the caucus tweeted.

Kern’s two bills are SB 1028 and SB 1030. The first of which would outright prohibit where certain performances could be put on. Specifically, SB 1028 would restrict a person or business from engaging in an adult nightclub performance that contains sexually explicit content on public property or at a location where the entity knows a minor could view the presentation. The first violation of this bill would result in a class 1 misdemeanor, but the punishment will move up to a class 6 felony for all subsequent offenses.

Additionally, the bill specifies that counties and cities may enact ordinances that regulate where adult performances can be held “in a manner that is at least as restrictive as this legislation.” However, this bill has undergone some amendments. In its original form, SB 1028 gave a specific list of the kinds of performances the bill would regulate, and this list included drag shows. Rather than giving a specific list of performances, it now calls for regulating anything with sexual displays.

While defending SB 1028 on the Senate Floor, Kern said this bill had some controversy surrounding it, mentioning that he had received a death threat email. So, he clarified that his ultimate goal with this bill is to protect children from unwholesome displays.

“My goal is not to regulate drag shows. It is to regulate sexually explicit drag shows and to protect our children,” Kern said.

Nonetheless, State Senator Anna Hernandez (D-Phoenix) took issue with letting entities make “judgment calls” on what can and cannot be displayed on public property. She argued that this bill could lead to first amendment rights violations.

Moreover, Kern’s second bill, SB 1030, requires all county boards of supervisors to use adult business licenses and regulations with establishments that present sexually explicit performances. Under Arizona law, adult-oriented businesses, such as bookstores, video stores, or model studios, must follow specific regulations, such as being at least one-fourth a mile away from any schools or only being able to operate at certain times of the week.

Like with SB 1028, the bill also previously focused on drag shows and performers but was amended to focus just on any lewd shows.

Despite the shift in focus, Senate Democrats still voiced concerns that the bill could be used to target drag performers. However, Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu) said it should not matter what the show is, be it drag or otherwise; there is no compelling reason to allow children near anything sexually explicit, which is what the bill is aiming for.

Despite the Democrat backlash, both bills still passed and will move on to the House for further action.

As reported by The Arizona Sun Times, the state Senate majority team made it a priority in the last session to make sure children are not viewing inappropriate drag shows.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Anthony Kern” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Wars. CC BY-SA 3.0.


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