Rep. Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls, on the House floor during the 2023 legislative session at the Capitol in Pierre. (Makenzie Huber, South Dakota Searchlight)
A bill that would ban “lewd or lascivious” content at state institutions and public schools died in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday morning.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls, previously passed the House with a 60-10 vote. It was amended in a House committee to allow the South Dakota Board of Regents to prohibit minors from attending any program or event.
The bill was in response to a controversial drag show held on the South Dakota State University campus last year by a student organization that advertised the show as “kid friendly.” The Board of Regents began drafting a new policy after the controversy, and placed a moratorium on minors attending events hosted by student organizations on university campuses. The board is still crafting the policy.
House Bill 1116 would ban state institutions and public schools from authorizing, expending public money or using any state-owned facility for “lewd and lascivious content.” Such banned content includes obscene conduct that depicts sexual activity, nudity or “any physical human body activity” for sexual matters without political or artistic value.
Opponents to the bill included lobbyists for public school organizations, the South Dakota Advocacy Network for Women and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Garrett Satterly, a member of the public who testified remotely against the bill, argued it was “vague and overreaching.”
Other opponents questioned if the bill would apply to “powderpuff football” events at schools, where females play flag football and males dress up as cheerleaders, or limit the dances that university dance teams perform at sporting events.
Sen. Tim Reed, R-Brookings, made the motion to kill the bill, saying that the bill would “expand state bureaucracy into content moderation.” He added that there are several complications with private money being used for university facilities, such as the Performing Arts Center on the SDSU campus, that further muddy the bill.
“Everybody likes intellectual diversity until they disagree with it, and I’m afraid that’s what is happening here,” Reed said.
The bill initially failed to pass the committee before the committee voted 4-3 to kill the bill. This was one of two bills introduced during the 2023 legislative session to place limits on drag shows in South Dakota. The other bill, which would have expanded obscenity laws to include drag shows and prohibited exposing children to such performances, failed to advance out of a House committee earlier this month.
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