Republican Proposes Ohio Child Exploitation Law After 9-Year-Old Performs in Drag

Ohio General Assembly

An Ohio state representative has introduced a bill against "child exploitation" after footage of a 9-year-old performing in drag in his district went viral.

Rep. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) proposed House Bill 180, which would ban performances "in which child simulates sexual activity." The genesis of the bill seems to be 9-year old Jake's performance as "Miss Mae Hem," a drag queen who has danced around Toledo, including at its Pride Festival.

HB-180 would prohibit children from simulating sexual activity in any establishment that has a D liquor permit, which includes restaurants that have beer on premises. The bill would remove liquor licenses from any establishment that had children behave in a way that is perceived sexually by an "average person applying contemporary standards." (Emphasis ours.)

The bill is being proposed in light of a December performance at JD Hendersons bar, outside Columbus. While Jake had been dancing at other events, this performance sparked outrage on a "City of Lancaster" Facebook page. The page was not city-affiliated, but conservative outlets began sharing the post and the comments, and criticized Jake's costume and dancing.

His mother, Jerri, told the Toledo Blade the performance was "grossly warped."

"[Jake] is just a guy who likes to dress up and dance and feel pretty," she said. Watching RuPaul's Drag Race inspired Jake to begin dressing in drag and dancing, and his parents helped him to learn gymnastic-inspired moves.

"I asked my mom if I could do drag, and she said, ‘Yeah, sure,’" Jake told the Blade.

The controversy prompted Lancaster Mayor David Schleffin to respond. In a Facebook post, he wrote that Jake remained clothed, was not touched by audience members and that a police investigation uncovered nothing criminal, because duh.
Given the evidence, Rep. Schaffer's concern for "exploitation" seems doubtlessly to be an attack on a kid who enjoys dancing (and his supportive family).

Rep. Schaffer's bill does not explicitly address gender-non-conforming acts, and largely discusses concerns appealing to "prurient interests," which is kept vague.

 “I think on its face [the bill] sounds good, but the intent and where the proposal came from was done in bad faith,” Kristen Angelo, of LGBT+ organization Harvey's House told the Blade. “There is nothing wrong with what [he] is doing. Nothing sexual, nothing inappropriate.”

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