HELENA - Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill into law on Monday, May 22, 2023, that puts new limits on drag performances in Montana.
House Bill 359, sponsored by Rep. Braxton Mitchell, R-Columbia Falls, was extensively amended several times throughout the legislative session.
In its final form, it prohibits schools and libraries that receive state funding from hosting “drag story hours” during regular operating hours or a sponsored extracurricular activity.
The bill defines drag story hours as when a performer with “a flamboyant or parodic” persona and “glamorous or exaggerated costumes and makeup” reads children’s books or does other learning activities with children present.
HB 359 also bans “sexually oriented performances” in front of minors – either on public property or at a business — and it bans them altogether in locations that receive state funding.
It defines “sexually oriented” to include “stripping, salacious dancing,” and any other “lewd or lascivious depiction or description.”
Supporters of the bill have argued drag performances can’t be separated from sexuality, and they highlighted reports of explicit behavior at shows in other states.
Opponents said the bill was unnecessary, used overly broad definitions and was based on misleading impressions of drag.