Media Contact

Janna Farley,

February 13, 2024

Today, the Senate Education Committee killed Senate Bill 184, legislation that would have defined drag performances as harmful to minors and make it a crime.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposed Senate Bill 184. The bill insinuated that all instances of drag performance are sexual in nature, violated First Amendment protections and provoked a broader cultural suppression of LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people.

The following statement can be attributed to Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager:

“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression, no matter what you are wearing. 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. Parents can decide whether their children are allowed to attend drag event or not the same way they decide in the home what movies are appropriate to watch.

“Drag has been a part of the creative community for centuries and bills like this would have far-reaching implications on the historical tradition of artistic freedom. Let’s call this what it is – an unconstitutional censorship attempt rooted in a coordinated national effort to push LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people out of public life. We’re thrilled that legislators on the Senate Education Committee recognized this and decided to kill this bill.”

Multiple bills addressing drag shows have been debated during the 2023 legislative session. Senate Bill 1113, legislation that would have prohibited the hosting of “lewd or lascivious” programs or events like drag shows on state-funded facilities on college campuses, was killed last month. Yesterday, House Bill 1178, legislation that would prohibit the hosting of programs with “obscene live conduct” on state-funded facilities on college campuses, was advanced by the House State Affairs Committee.

About the ACLU of South Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South 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 the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South 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 South Dakota.