RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Two members of the North Carolina House from Forsyth County are sponsoring a bill that would ban male and female impersonators from performing for audiences that include anyone younger than 18.

House Bill 673, the so-called “Clarify Regulations on Adult Entertainment” bill, was filed Tuesday by District 74 Rep. Jeff Zenger (R-Lewisville), with District 75 Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) also listed as a primary sponsor.

State Rep. Jeff Zenger (R-Forsyth) (NCGA)

The bill expands the statute governing live “adult” entertainment – such as topless dancers and strippers – to include “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.”

“There was an incident at Forsyth Tech Community College several weeks ago that raised constituent concerns over drag showsm” Zenger wrote in an email response to questions from WGHP. “This bill is a response to those concerns expressed to me about age-appropriate entertainment.”

“Prurient,” a term employed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its famous Roth v. U.S. case, is defined in the legal context as “having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts.”

State Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem)

Less clear is the law’s specification of “whether or not performed for consideration,” which would presume to mean whether the performers were compensated.

It’s also unclear if the “younger than 18” limitation would mean that artistic performances that include cross-dressing characters would be banned. Those could include productions of the play “Hairspray Jr.” or the new musical “Tootsie,” based on the movie that starred Dustin Hoffman, or even cartoons with cross-dressing appearances by such cartoon characters as Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo and Quick Draw McGraw.

The Guilford Green Foundation & LGBTQ Center, based in Greensboro, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, stating that the group “unequivocally” condemns the proposed legislation and noting that the bill comes just days before the group’s “Green Queen Bingo” slated for April 21.

“If Drag, especially Green Queen Bingo, is important to you, please take this opportunity to fully support Drag performers: attend events, tip the performers, and advocate for the art form!” Guilford Green said.

Equality NC called the bill “harmful legislation” and railed against it as “yet another strategy to restrict gender and gender expression and legislate LGBTQ+ people out of existence.”

“HB 673 is a discriminatory and undemocratic attack on our most fundamental rights,” said Equality NC Executive Director Kendra Johnson. “Attacks on drag shows aim to stop LGBTQ+ people from being who we are and expressing ourselves freely. Drag bans are part of broader attacks on queer and transgender people, alongside coordinated efforts to police gender expression. Drag performances are one of many diverse art forms that the LGBTQ+ community has contributed to American culture, and this form of expression should be protected under the First Amendment.”

Protests against the presence of drag performers at events – sometimes by right-wing militant groups such as the Proud Boys – have brought North Carolina to the forefront of the issue. At least one event in Moore County coincided with a significant public disruption of electrical power.

Last June, the Forsyth County Republican Men’s Club protested a drag queen story time held at Bookmarks in Winston-Salem for children ages 3 to 7. The town of Apex canceled a similar event because of protests.

HB 673 has not been read into the House or assigned to the Rules Committee. Zenger’s cosponsors also include Rep. Mark Pless (R-Haywood) and Rep. Donnie Loftis (R-Gaston). Among its cosponsors are Rep. Neal Jackson (R-Robbins) and Rep. Dennis Riddell (R-Snow Camp) from the Triad.


Editor’s Note: After Claire Curry’s video aired on WNCT about local reaction to the current drag queen bill that’s being discussed in the NC Legislature, the reigning Miss ENC Pride, Michelle Michaels, issued a statement about what is going on.

On April 18th, 2023, a hate bill was introduced into the NC government. This bill states that male and female impersonators are to be classified the same as strippers, topless dancers, and exotic dancers. These offenses could lead to felony charges and jail time if performed in any public place or where an individual under the age of 18 can view them. Presidents, actors, singers, civil rights leaders, and community leaders. cold be faced with felonies, fines, and jail time. I do not wish to continue pushing hate as my community is facing so I will choose to share the positive. Drag has been around for a very long time, you can see it in Shakespeare, poetry, music, movies, and live stage performances, just to name a few. Drag has been a part of everyday life for as long as most can remember, Buggs Bunny, Mrs. Doubtfire, Madea, and even Donald Trump was associated with drag at one point. Sexualizing an art form speaks a lot about those who are criminalizing it. For those being discriminated against, it appears organizations like the Proud Boys and other militia groups are now running politics. As their agendas seem to be what is pushing forward, instead of more pressing matters such as keeping our children safe in schools. Let me break down what exactly the drag community has been doing in your local communities. Not only has it provided revenue for the local bars and small businesses but drag brunches I host have raised well over $26,000 for various charities in past couple years. For over 40 years we have held toy drives for the holiday season, food drives for local pantries that feed the less fortunate in your community, and fundraising for community members who suffer from medical issues such as cancer and H.I.V. or even personal loss such as natural disasters or family members deaths. That is just the financial aspect the drag community has provided, not including the positive affirmations from younger generations, being a shoulder for those in need, and preventing, self-harm or suicide. Most of the time the best we can do and provide for our community is not in a nightclub but out in the community being leaders and providers. Crape Myrtle Festival in Raleigh is one of the oldest organizations that continue today to raise funds for not just gay people but everyone who lives with HIV/ Aids in this state. They have raised well over a million dollars to help keep community members’ lights on, medications, and anything that is needed. They don’t just help Raleigh communities but help the entire state. Brunch and events in the public are what raise funds to be able to provide these services. Public performances are not in any way meant to showcase sexuality but entertainment as an art form. Entertainers are being given the title of pedophiles, yet every day we see news articles about religious leaders being arrested, teachers being arrested, and coaches being arrested, but yet no stories whatsoever of a performer. Very much a double standard going on in our world. As Miss ENC Pride I had the pleasure of visiting every city’s pride festivals over the past two years and seeing the joy in families’ faces, the sense of safety, freedom of individuality, and the love from our community who turn into people’s families. I have fought hard over my 21 years in Eastern Carolina being a performer to raise money, lift communities, and try to make a difference in the lives of our younger generation. I’m sad to see this day in America, the home of the free, only if you are like the ones who say who you have to be or act, and the mindset of every person is created equal under the law, except if you are different than those who make the rules. If this bill passes and fundraising and charity work come to an end, who will help communities?