Two West Virginia bills aim to protect minors from obscene acts and materials, which the bills define, in part, as anything that includes exposure or performances by transgender people.

The bills, introduced this week by state Sen. Michael Azinger, a Republican, would ban obscene and sexually explicit materials on or within 2,500 feet of state schools and prohibit children from being present at obscene performances or displays.

The bills’ four-point definition of «obscene matter» is, for the most part, general and includes material that appeals to the «pursuing interest» or is «patently offensive.» But the fourth part of the definition specifically defines «indecent displays of a sexually explicit nature,» in part, as «any exposure, performance, or display of a transvestite and/or transgender person to any minor.» No other group of people or specific type of action is included.

School personnel violating the school-related bill, SB 252You could be charged with a misdemeanor, which can carry a fine of up to $500 and/or up to one year in prison.

People who violate the bill that regulates places and shows, SB 278, you could face a misdemeanor, a fine of up to $1,000, and/or jail time. Venues that allow minors to perform performances that the bill defines as obscene or sexually explicit could face a complaint for disorderly conduct.

Advocates in the state say the bills state that the existence of transgender people is inherently sexual and harmful to children.

Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, compared the bills to Florida’s parental rights in education law (called the «Don’t Say Gay» bill). » by critics), which prohibits classroom instruction on «sexual orientation». or gender identity…kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age or developmentally appropriate to students according to state standards.”

These bills, he said, «are like ‘Don’t say gay,’ but on steroids.»

“It sounds like it’s about protecting children from harm, but it’s really a ploy to erase LGBTQ people from public life,” Schneider said. «It’s a scare tactic we see all the time, but even scare tactics have a real impact on our community.»

Jack Jarvis, the group’s director of communications, said they’ve heard from transgender people who work in state schools that they fear SB 252 will ban them from being in classrooms.

“They don’t know if this means they’re going to have to leave the state or leave their jobs, or if they’re going to go to jail just because they’re trans with a young person,” Jarvis said. «They’re definitely scared, but they’re willing to fight.»

Azinger did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether SB 252 could affect transgender school personnel, or whether SB 278 could prohibit transgender people from acting in any way in front of minors, including in a play or during a performance. karaoke night.

Eli Baumwell, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, described the bills as «clearly unconstitutional» and «too extreme even for this Legislature.» He said he doesn’t expect them to be dealt with in committee.

“However, just introducing such cruel legislation comes at a cost,” Baumwell said in an email. «A recent study by the Trevor Project found that 86 percent of trans and non-binary youth say listening to lawmakers debate the removal of their rights has affected their mental health. To suggest that the law should define a person’s mere existence as ‘obscene’ is cruel, damaging and frankly unconscionable”.

Lawmakers in other states have introduced similar legislation, largely intended to ban minors from attending drag shows, which have come under increasing criticism from conservatives and attacks from white nationalist groups over the past decade. last year.

A bill in arizona, for example, would require businesses that host drag performers to zone as adult performance venues. It defines a drag performer as “a person who dresses in clothing and uses makeup and other physical markers opposite to the gender of the person at birth to exaggerate gender meanings and roles and engages in singing, dancing, or a monologue or skit.” to entertain an audience. .” Advocates have said that this broad definition would include any trans person serving in any capacity.

So far this year, lawmakers have introduced more than 120 bills targeting LGBTQ people, according to an NBC News analysis.

In West Virginia, lawmakers have filed at least 10. One would be ban gender affirming surgeries for minorsalthough gender affirmation surgery is rarely performed on minors.

Another West Virginia bill would allow 15% of a city’s voters to withdraw «any ordinance or provision of the city code previously enacted by the government.» schneider said this accountwhile it doesn’t explicitly mention LGBTQ issues or people, it could be used to repeal local anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, which have been passed in 18 West Virginia cities.

“All of our local fairness laws could be at risk,” Jarvis said. «The threshold is so low that all of them will be at risk.»

Schneider added: “Basically, they are giving veto power to the fringe elements of any community.”