Leibo At Large: Arizona lawmakers won’t drag you down

By David Leibowitz

When you consider the many threats faced by Arizonans on a daily basis, the usual evils come to mind: double-digit inflation; chaos along the southern border; the fentanyl crisis; the Valley’s massive shortage of housing; our rising violent crime rate.

Toss in political turmoil and the ongoing insanity surrounding the 2022 election and it’s a long list.

All of which explains why this year’s session of the Arizona Legislature has seen conservative Republicans introduce no less than four bills targeted at that noted scourge … drag shows.

Apparently, there are gangs of marauding drag queens all over the state plotting to corrupt your kids. Or as freshman state Sen. Justine Wadsack, who seems to be driving this crazy train, explained at a recent Senate Judiciary committee hearing: 

“I have enjoyed many drag queen performances in my day, as an adult, around adults, in a roomful of adults. It’s been a great time. I have nothing wrong with the drag queen performances. … What I do have a problem with is when they go into the public libraries or the schools. I have watched them literally stand onstage wearing a G-string with breast implants. And leaning over to a 5-year-old girl who has a dollar bill in her hand ready to put the dollar bill in this person’s G-string while this person leans over and says, ‘Are you thirsty for some milk, little girl?’ … A 5-year-old does not need to be going up to a drag queen and putting dollar bills in their G-string.”

My guess is you, too, find the above absolutely absurd and completely unbelievable. 

There’s not a chance in hell that Southern Arizona Republicans sent someone named “Wadsack” to the Legislature.

Sadly, they did. 

Wadsack’s bill to combat drag shows is SB 1698, a poorly written affair which seeks to make it a felony to expose a minor to “an adult-oriented performance or an adult-oriented business,” including a “drag show,” defined as a performance involving folks who “engage in singing, dancing or a monologue or skit in order to entertain an audience of two or more people,” while wearing clothing or makeup “opposite of the performer’s or group of performers’ gender at birth.”

This heinous offense would carry a minimum five-year prison sentence — surely sobering news for the actors set to appear in the June performances of “Hairspray” at Gammage on the Arizona State University campus. 

Also at risk, as I read the bill: any parent who screens “Tootsie,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” or “Big Momma’s House” for a kids’ sleepover party.

Wadsack claimed to have evidence at the committee hearing, where a different anti-drag bill — Anthony’s Kern’s SB 1028, which would ban drag shows on public property or anywhere a child might see it — passed out of committee by a vote of 4-3.

Said Wadsack: “If you guys don’t believe that these things happen, I have the documented proof. I just can’t put them up on the screen for you.”

If you ask me, these proposals sound like what our Legislature has specialized in for as long as I can remember: a solution in search of a problem. 

Do I support sexualizing children, or a massive expense of tax dollars to sponsor Drag Queen Story Hour? I absolutely do not. 

But the screeching here far outweighs the threat, given that such events targeting children appear to be nonexistent. 

From where I sit, the best defense against children being exposed to drag shows — or other sexual material — is something else that apparently doesn’t exist in our state.

Responsible parenting.

I miss the days when Arizona’s legislative leaders believed in such principles, instead of political make-believe. Because silly bills like Wadsack’s? They’re a real drag.