JEFFERSON CITY — The drag queens are coming for the General Assembly.
Just days after Rep. Ben Baker’s bill targeting drag queen story hours at public libraries drew national attention — and criticism — performers are putting together plans to protest.
Tanner Rambo, a Springfield promoter representing two performers organizing the March 7 event, said Wednesday he hopes other performers will flock to Jefferson City “to show Ben Baker and the legislature this kind of bill is just bad policy.”
Baker, R-Neosho, said in an interview last week he’s trying to give parents more control over what happens in public libraries amid concern over drag queen story hours in libraries and public spaces in St. Louis, Kansas City and St. Joseph.
The events consist of performers reading stories to kids in an effort to show them it’s OK not to conform to traditional gender stereotypes.
Baker says he disagrees with that idea “based on my own philosophy" and that young kids shouldn’t be exposed to such content, which he said could easily confuse them.
To that end, his bill requires public libraries to create review boards to regulate such events and anything else considered “age-inappropriate sexual material.”
Libraries that refuse to create boards would be cut off from state money and individual workers who defy boards could be jailed.
Rambo, the promoter, said the whole thing is ridiculous.
“You’re talking about people in big, poofy dresses telling stories in funny voices and trying to get kids interested in reading, which I think we should all want,” Rambo said.
He also rejected the idea that the events were causing any harm to those who don’t like them.
“If you want to disagree philosophically, you can. Don't go,” Rambo said. “These aren’t things people are mandated to attend.”
He also noted that the events usually last an hour, or two at the most, so people can easily plan around them.
Rambo also said Baker needs to lay off LGBTQ people in general. The Neosho representative has also proposed a bill allowing adoption agencies to refuse to work with anyone if doing so would violate their sincerely held beliefs, which could allow religious organizations to shut out LGBTQ couples.
“This vendetta that (Baker) has is not what our representatives are for,” Rambo said.
The Missouri Library Association also opposes Baker's legislation, calling it needless censorship. Jim Shildt, associate director at the Springfield-Greene County Library District, told the News-Leader last week he feels the same way.
The bill has yet to be referred to committee for a hearing.
A Facebook event page says the protest will be from noon-4 p.m. on Saturday, March 7.
The legislature is generally in session Monday through Thursday.
Baker’s bill is House Bill 2044.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. He covers state government, Missouri's congressional delegation and the 2020 elections in his home state. He can be reached at 417-403-8096 and email@example.com.