Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has signed House Bill 359 into law, placing prohibitions on drag queen story hours and sexually oriented performances at publicly funded schools and libraries. The legislation, sponsored by more than half of Montana’s Republican-controlled state legislature, also limits minors from attending such performances even in private establishments. Passed initially in the Montana House of Representatives with a 66-33 vote, the bill’s stated intention is to shield children from sexualization and gender ideology.
The law’s implementation comes amidst a surge of controversy surrounding the role of drag queens in children’s education. Republican Representative Braxton Mitchell, a co-sponsor of the bill, has expressed strong opposition to such performances, arguing they promote a “sick agenda” and can potentially harm a child’s psychological wellbeing. Meanwhile, critics of the law argue against conflating drag performances with the sexualization of children.
Democrats proposed an amendment to the legislation to replace the term “drag” with “adult-oriented performance,” aimed at broadening the bill’s focus to include any potentially age-inappropriate performance. However, this amendment was seen as a derailment of the original intent of the legislation by Mitchell and subsequently rejected in a 58-42 vote.
Originating in San Francisco in 2015, the concept of drag queen story hours has been championed by LGBT activist group RADAR Productions and author Michelle Tea. Despite gaining global popularity, these performances have been met with increasing resistance. Following Montana’s lead, other Republican-led states, including Florida and Tennessee, have taken legislative measures to prevent similar events in their own communities.