Senate Rules Attorney Chris Kleminich warned the Senate Rules Committee that SB 1001, which targets transgender children in schools, and SB 1026 and SB 1698, two weapons in the GOP’s war on drag queens, weren’t likely to be upheld in a court of law.
SB 1001, sponsored by Republican Senator John Kavanagh, prohibits teachers and school officials from referring to students by pronouns that don't match their assigned gender at birth unless they have written parental permission. That bill moved forward in the Senate Education Committee in January.
Kleminich told the panel that he had “constitutional concerns” about the bill. He cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes discrimination based on gender identity.
“Gender identity is a protected class,” Kleminich warned the committee.
Despite Kleminich’s admonition, Republicans advanced the bill to the full Senate with a 4-3 vote. Republican Senators Warren Petersen, Sonny Borrelli, Sine Kerr, and T.J. Shope voted to advance the bill. Democratic Senators Lela Alston, Catherine Miranda, and Raquel Terán voted against it.
‘There is No Court Precedent We Can Look To’
Kavanagh, who has been attacking LGBTQ people in Arizona for the past decade and who has a habit of authoring unconstitutional bills, also sponsored SB 1026, which would prohibit public money from being used to pay for “drag shows targeting minors.”
The Fountain Hills Republican sponsored SB 1026 despite telling Phoenix New Times that he can’t think of an instance in which taxpayer dollars were used to put on a drag show for children in Arizona. The bill defines public money as “tax monies of this state, federal monies passing through the state treasury, or any other state monies." It was passed by the Senate Government Committee on February 9.
“This is an area of the law where there is no court precedent we can look to,” Kleminich said Monday, affirming that drag shows have never been legally regulated. He added that, in his legal opinion, SB 1026 stinks of unconstitutionality.
“In the area of regulating drag shows generally, I can see challenges on First Amendment grounds and equal protection grounds in the category of sex and gender,” Kleminich told the committee on Monday.
Still, SB 1026 advanced to the full Senate after a 4-3 vote.
‘Dangerous Crimes Against Children’
SB 1698, sponsored by first-term Republican Senator Justine Wadsack, would add drag shows to a state law about "dangerous crimes against children." The bill defines drag shows as adult-oriented performances and compares them to bestiality, child sex trafficking, second-degree murder, and sexual assault.
Under the proposal, adults who allow children to see drag shows could receive prison terms of five years and be required to register as sex offenders.
“In the Rules Committee, we’re tasked with looking at each bill on its face,” Kleminich said. “The same comments I made on SB 1026 would apply to this, as well.”
Without any discussion, the same four Republicans opted to overlook the attorney’s advice and advanced SB 1698 to the full Senate, while the same three Democrats did their best to nix the bill.
Senate Approves Bill Targeting Trans Students
There are at least five other anti-LGBTQ bills moving through the Arizona Legislature right now, including one aimed at transgender students that passed the Senate on Tuesday.
- SB 1005, which allows parents to sue teachers and schools over allegations that their parental rights were violated. The bill also prohibits parents from being ordered to pay attorneys fees or damages if they lose the lawsuit. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill in January. The Senate approved the bill 16-12 with two lawmakers not voting on February 16. It was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee on February 27.
- SB 1028, which would make it illegal to host drag performances at any public place where the show “could be viewed by a minor.” This would criminalize drag brunches, family drag shows, drag story hours, some musicals, and more. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on February 2.
- SB 1030, which would require permits for drag shows and zone businesses that host them as “adult-oriented businesses." The bill lumps drag performance in the same category as cabaret, adult entertainment, and sex work. The Senate Government Committee passed the bill on February 16.
- SB 1040, which would require public schools to provide single-occupancy restrooms and locker rooms for students who are unable or unwilling to use communal facilities. Additionally, public schools could be sued if a student uses a designated facility that is not consistent with what the bill refers to as one’s “immutable biological sex.” The Senate Education Committee passed the bill on February 15. The Senate Rules Committee passed the bill on February 20. With a 16-14 vote on Tuesday, the full Senate approved the bill, according to the Arizona Mirror. All Republicans voted for the measure, while Democrats voted against it.
- SB 1700, which would ban books in schools that are lewd or sexual in nature, books that “promote gender fluidity or gender pronouns,” and books that “promote the grooming of children into normalizing pedophilia.” The Senate Education Committee passed the bill on February 15.