The owner of Houston’s only lesbian bar says her business is in jeopardy after being denied insurance coverage, blaming, in part, an anti-drag bill moving through the Texas Legislature.
“We, the subscribers, were flatly denied because we put on drag shows,” said Julie Mabry, owner of Pearl Bar, in an interview with KPRC of Houston, NBC affiliate.
Mabry has insurance through December, but decided to switch agents a few months ago and look for a new policy, he told KPRC. It was during that process that his agent received the denial email, which the agent then sent to Mabry.
“This is the first time I have received an email like that. I cried about this for about a week,” said Mabry, who told KPRC that drag shows were the first thing mentioned in the email, which explained why the insurer did not want to take the risk of insuring his bar.
Mabry did not share additional details about the subscriber or the email, and did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
Mabry, who opened Pearl Bar in 2013, said the current political climate fueled the situation he finds himself in, and he encouraged followers of Pearl Bar’s Instagram account to contact their lawmakers about anti-LGBTQ bills at the state, including one that restrict drag shows on public property, on the premises of a commercial enterprise, or in the presence of a child.
The bill, Senate Bill 12, passed the Texas Senate last month by a vote of 20 to 11, and was scheduled to be considered by a House committee on Thursday. If the measure becomes law, violators could be subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000.
“Pearl needs everyone to speak for us so we can stay open and HOST DRAG SHOWS! It’s THAT serious.» a post on Pearl Bar’s Instagram account saying. “We are in the final stretch of the session and every voice counts to push back this and other anti-LGBTQ laws. We need you to step up, be strong and tell your legislators NO to any anti-LGBTQ+ bill. Our state should be open to everyone, period.»
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, the bill’s author, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Texas is one of at least 16 states where lawmakers have proposed bills this year that seek to restrict audiences for drag performances and where they can take place. Tennessee is the only state to have enacted such a law, which a federal judge temporarily blocked from taking effect.
The bills seeking to restrict drag performances are part of a broader trend of Republican-led bills targeting LGBTQ people in the US. So far this year, more than 470 banknotes of this type have been proposed in US legislatures, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Pearl Bar is one of two dozen remaining lesbian bars in the US and one of only two in Texas, the other being Sue Ellen’s in Dallas. Mabry hopes Texas won’t be left with just one lesbian bar.
“This situation is real,” he wrote on Instagram. “I have tried to be as careful as possible to keep my sponsors, artists and staff safe, but if we stay quiet, we are not helping.”