Oklahoma bill would fine, jail drag queens for public performances

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — An Oklahoma state representative introduced a bill that would make drag queen performances in public spaces a felony offense.

House Bill 2186 (HB 2186), authored by State Rep. Kevin West (R-Cleveland County), could have drag queens facing up to $20,000 in fines and/or up to two years in jail.

West told FOX23 he introduced the bill because a lot of people are concerned about drag queen performances in public spaces, especially in front of children.

“We are just trying to put some boundaries in place,” West told FOX23. “So that parents absolutely do know what their children are about to be exposed.”

The bill also refers to Drag Queen Story Hours — an event where drag queens read children’s books — and other forms of drag performances as adult cabaret.

“It’s something that a lot of parents just are not with,” he continued. “And when you’re talking [about] 12-years-olds, 10-year-olds … they’re just not used to seeing that.”

There has been some backlash against the bill. A Change.org petition has been set up by Rural Oklahoma Pride. A representative from the group, Jacob Jeffrey, told FOX23 he’s worried about the proposed bill.

“How is it inappropriate to read a simple story to a child?” Jeffrey asked.

Jeffrey also explained that every drag performance is different.

“We go by what the audience is,” he said. “If it’s adults, then yeah it’s going to be probably a little more risqué because that’s how many shows go. But if it’s kids, it’s going to be appropriate. It’s not like we’re going to be showing anything that a parent wouldn’t show.”

FOX23 previously reported public drag shows have been an issue dividing people in Bartlesville since the city’s pride event in September 2022. Keisha Kye, the host of the public drag show in Bartlesville, said the bill is concerning.

“It’s almost like, if a child showed up, I’d have to run away,” Kye said. “I couldn’t even engage with children. They’re literally saying that we can go to jail, and we can get up to $20,000 in fines. I don’t even know if it’s worth it. And this is the fight. It’s not fair. It’s not correct.”

West said he introduced the bill to set public boundaries.

“I want to be crystal clear,” he said. “We’re not trying to ban [drag shows]. We just want it to not be done in public or where children might be present.”