The Republican party claims to protect the First Amendment, building its reputation on the protection of freedom of speech. However, they consistently violate the First Amendment by censoring discussions about same-sex relationships and criminalizing drag shows in the name of religion.
There has been a record-breaking number of anti-LGBTQ+ laws in 2023 alone, with many of them focused on restricting the teachings of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools. In Florida, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which imposes a ban on teachings related to gender and sexuality, has been extended to all grades. In Texas, a similar bill has been introduced that would ban books that feature same-sex couples and transgender characters, referrals to websites that include these topics and drag performances in public-school libraries.
These bills are pushing a religious agenda that would see all children pushed towards a straight, gender-conforming way of living. They are not promoting the safety of children. Republicans’ demonization of the LGBTQ+ community is not based in reality. Republicans reference a mistranslated verse in the Bible in order to strip the rights of a community making up over 7% of the U.S. population. The First Amendment clearly outlines the necessary separation of church and state, but Republicans ignore this fact when pushing for censorship of the LGBTQ+ community in the name of Christianity.
Republicans have further violated the First Amendment’s separation of church and state by passing bills for the expression of religion in schools through designated Bible reading and prayer times. This ostracizes nonreligious students or those who practice a religion besides Christianity. It also creates an unsafe environment for LGBTQ+ students who may be ostracized for being perceived as evil and immoral. Schools should be teaching students facts and critical thinking instead of forcing them to adhere to Christian beliefs.
Republicans’ latest attacks on the First Amendment have come in recent bills targeting drag shows. As of 2023, there have been over 30 such bills across 17 states, including Arizona, Tennessee and Missouri. Much like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the new propositions against drag shows are, according to The Washington Post, “so broadly written…they would effectively shut down drag shows and limit the gay community’s ability to perform in drag at gay pride parades and other long-running public events.”
Performers have also shared their concerns about how these bills would force them to reclassify the buildings they perform in as strip clubs, therefore preventing them from receiving state funds. The bill would unconstitutionally criminalize this performance and limit the venues in which drag queens can perform. Drag queens could be unjustly forced to choose between being charged with misdemeanors and possibly felonies or losing their source of income and self-expression.
If the protection of minors was the real concern, instead of attacking the LGBTQ+ community to preserve religious values, then establishments such as Hooters would see the same kinds of restrictions in Republican states. Minors have rarely been protected from adult content, with TV shows and movies for children 14 and older displaying sexual content,nudity and drug use. Even football games, available to people of all ages, feature cheerleaders in revealing outfits dancing provocatively. Drag queen performances are not inherently sexual, and the only reason they are being targeted is because they represent the LGBTQ+ community.
As is outlined in the Constitution, the government must never use their power to enforce religion. In citing religion to censor the LGBTQ+ community, the Republican party is proving that they only care to uphold the Constitution when it advances their hateful values.
Stephany Lopez-Cortez is an Opinion Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.