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Hundreds rally at State House against anti-trans bill, ban on drag shows for kids

Well over 200 people from across Alabama rallied Tuesday in Montgomery against a series of bills they say target the LGBT community.

“We only have two choices,” said Ambrosia Starling, an LGBT advocate and entertainer from Dothan, to the crowd in front of the State House. “To stand united, or die divided!”

Among the bills advocates said were targeting the LGBT community include House Bills 401 and 405, the ban on drag shows in front of kids and the What is a Woman Act, respectively.

Sponsored by Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham, HB401 prohibits material described as “sexual or gender oriented” in any public place where minors are present, which includes any “lewd or lascivious dancing” by “drag queens or drag kings.” The bill enforces the prohibition by modifying the state’s current laws against distributing obscene material to minors to include drag shows in public, which can carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

The proposal comes shortly after the passage of a similar bill in Tennessee, the first-of-its-kind in the country.

The What is a Woman Act, sponsored by Rep. Susan Dubose, R-Hoover, codifies the definition of men and women into law to be their biological sex as was assigned at birth. The bill’s name is a reference to What Is a Woman?, a 2022 documentary narrated by conservative personality Matt Walsh about gender ideology.

One rally participant, Cassandra Williamson, the executive director for the Alabama-based Transgender & Diverse Veterans of America, said the largest motivation for the rally — beyond protesting the aforementioned bills — was to make themselves known to lawmakers.

“Our motivation is that we’re here in the state, and we want people to know we’re here; we’re not going anywhere, and we’re going to fight against these bills that attempt to deny us our humanity,” Williamson told Alabama Daily News.

Starling, who was among the featured speakers at the rally, told Alabama Daily News that the bill banning drag shows in particular could “make life difficult for everybody” due to its “loose” definitions of what constitutes a drag show. Starling also argued that the series of bills represented misplaced priorities among lawmakers.

“They just baked a man alive in the state prison back in (2020), they froze another man in a county jail (in February),” Starling said. “These are things that need to be fixed, not a drag show that just lets somebody forget about their problems and enjoy life for a few minutes.”

One of the lead organizers for the rally, Destiny Clarke, told Alabama Daily News that participants had come from across the state, including from Huntsville, Selma and Mobile. On the bill banning drag shows in public, Clarke argued that its “vague” language could create unintended side effects for other members of the LGBT community.

“It could ban public drag performances, however, a trans person could be walking down the street and that law could cause that trans person to be arrested, fined $10,000 and spend a year in jail,” Clarke said. 

“So that is one of the reasons why we’re protesting these bills; they’re anti-trans in every aspect. “We don’t want more rights, we just want equal rights; we’re not asking for anything extra, we just want to be treated the same. We are your neighbors, we’re your family members and the LGBT community is not going anywhere.”

House Bill 405 by DuBose is on the House Health Committee’s agenda today. House Bill 401 has been assigned to the House State Government Committee but has not yet gotten a vote.

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