Media Contact

Janna Farley,

January 23, 2023

The ACLU of North Dakota opposes House Bill 1333, legislation that would prohibit “adult-oriented performances,” including drag and cabaret shows, in the presence of minors and on public property. The bill, which received a “do pass” recommendation from the House Judiciary Committee today, is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

The following statement can be attributed to Cody Schuler, ACLU of North Dakota advocacy manager:

“Drag is a visual expression and celebration of the culture and resilience of the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community, and is paved into the history of the movement. It is performance art and entertainment with elements of singing, dancing, lip syncing and costuming. Male and female impersonation is a time-honored tradition in cannon artistic works, going back to Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘Merchant of Venice,’ ‘Yentl,’ ‘Tootsie,’ the Academy-award-winning ‘Victor Victoria’ and many more.

“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression, no matter what you are wearing. It’s discriminatory and unconstitutional to single out male and female impersonators in a bid to shut down their speech. We don’t want the government deciding which types of theater and entertainment are allowable and which aren’t beyond what is already an established constitutional norm. If our elected officials are uncomfortable with drag shows, they do not need to attend the performances.

“Courts have held that government can impose some reasonable restrictions on adult entertainment. Drag performances, however, are nothing like strip clubs and do not meet the definition of ‘adult entertainment’ that is applicable to strip clubs. Artistic expression is not sexual or erotic in nature simply because it involves male or female impersonators and, therefore, it cannot be regulated like ‘adult-oriented businesses.’

“Attempting to shape the narrative by implying that drag is intrinsically sexual or that gay and trans spaces shouldn’t allow accompanied minors because it promotes sexual deviancy is textbook bigotry — not to mention counter to the conservative values of personal freedom. This is, fundamentally, a parents’ rights issue. Parents can decide whether their children are allowed to attend a drag event or not the same way they decide in the home what movies are appropriate to watch.”

About the ACLU of North Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of North Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes South Dakota and Wyoming. The team in North Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of North Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of North Dakota.