Failed Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, a state senator, is saying he will submit legislation to ban drag shows in public by reclassifying them as "adult-oriented businesses," amid right wing uproar over a high school's "queer prom."
"In the near future, I plan to introduce a bill to ban drag shows on public property or in areas that can be seen by minors," Mastriano, a Trump-endorsed far right wing Christian nationalist who lost the 2022 gubernatorial race by a massive 14-point margin.
"In Pennsylvania, there has been an alarming uptick in drag performances that appeal to children," Mastriano lamented in a memo to fellow lawmakers, as Fox 43 reports. "In April 2022, parents at a school district in Lancaster were shocked to learn about after-school X-rated drag shows occurring on school property. In October 2022, a sexually charged drag show for audience members as young as 13 was performed at the Rainbow Room in Bucks County."
"Drag shows that appeal to minors on school property, libraries, and other public places should not be accepted in any functioning society," Mastriano added.
Sen. Mastriano was caught on film leading a group in prayer just two weeks before the 2021 insurrection, asking God for the MAGA movement to overthrow the federal government, praying they would “seize the power” and “rise up” on January 6.
In one of his examples, Mastriano was referring to the Bucks County Rainbow Room’s Queer Prom, but his characterizations of drag shows and the queer prom are disputed.
Bucks County Courier Times reports that the Rainbow Room is part of Democratic state Sen. Steve Santarsiero's district.
Santarsiero "attended the 2020 prom as legislator and a parent of a gay child. He said his younger son had come out as gay about eight months before and was compelled to comment after seeing the proposal."
Santarsiero published his open letter to lawmakers responding to Mastriano's announcement.
"I take particular exception to his distorted characterization of the Rainbow Room's Queer Prom, a dance specifically arranged for LGBTO+ youth in Bucks County," Santarsiero tells his fellow lawmakers. "The Rainbow Room, which Planned Parenthood established over 20 years ago to be a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth to come together and build self-esteem, first held the prom in February 2020 I was at that event, both as an elected official sponsoring it and as a parent (our younger son had come out as gay about 8 months before and was excited to attend the prom with his friends)."
He explains what he saw was kids who were "happy," and "happy to be in a loving environment where it was OK to be themselves."
"What I observed in person in 2020 - and again by watching the video of the 2022 prom - was a large group of teenagers having fun. What struck me, in fact, was that they could have been kids -gay or straight - at any school in the country. For the most part, they danced with the same awkwardness as any other teenager - I say that endearingly as someone who even in late middle- age is still awkward on the dance floor. What was apparent was that each one of them was happy. They were happy to be with their friends and happy to be in a loving environment where it was OK to be themselves."
Calling it "an important point," Santarsiero observes: "Many of these students do not feel accepted by their peers - although it has been my experience both as a teacher and a parent that the younger generations are far more open to them than older ones - and at times by adults, which, sadly, can include family members Indeed, the Central Bucks School District, where many of these students attend school, is presently led by a board majority that has created an educational environment that is openly hostile to LBGIQ+ youth. So, having an organization like the Rainbow Room and an event like the Queer Prom can very literally save the lives of kids who otherwise experience feelings of depression and isolation. I can share from personal experience that Ronni and I are deeply indebted to the Rainbow Room for how it helped our son on the road to becoming the confident young man that he is."
He appeared to take particular exception to Mastriano calling it "sexually charged."
“As for it being sexually charged, I will not attempt to get into the gentleman’s mind to decipher what exactly he meant by that phrase, although I note that it is one that is most often used by those, who, solely on their own authority, take on the mantel of arbiter of morality in ironic disregard of the biblical admonition against judging. I would simply suggest that it might be a challenge to find a prom in America at which someone would not be offended by what they would consider inappropriate behavior or dress. With that in mind, we should be careful not to hold LGBTQ+ youth to a different standard than that of straight young people,” Santarsiero said.