Responding to a recent controversy in Chattanooga about an LGBTQ+ pride event involving children, Georgia state Sen.-elect Colton Moore is calling for a ban on "drag sex shows" aimed at children. He also wants make it a felony to bring children to what he calls those kinds of "sexual displays."
Moore is calling for the removal of parental rights from people who bring their children to drag shows.
"Drag sex shows are not appropriate forms of entertainment for children, and I am calling on the legislature to pass a law that protects Georgia's children from the radical left's disgusting attempts to corrupt our kids," Moore said in a news release.
Republican Robby Starbuck, who was removed from the GOP primary ballot for a Nashville area congressional seat earlier this year under Republican rules about bona fide candidates, posted a video taken Sept. 27 at Chattanooga Pride's Youth Pride Event at WanderLinger Brewing Co.
Chattanooga Pride 2022 is a weeklong series of events designed to bring the LGBTQ+ community and allies together, according to the website for festival organizers. The finale will be Sunday's Pride Festival, scheduled 12:30-7 p.m. at Ross's Landing, 201 Riverfront Parkway. Attempts to reach festival organizers Friday for comment on Moore's proposals were unsuccessful.
Local activist Ashley Kaye filmed the video shared by Starbuck, and Kaye also filmed and shared videos from other events.
One one-minute, 16-second video that seems to have drawn the most backlash showed four performances. It started with a young girl briefly running her hand up and down sequined material stretched over the crotch of a person in a sparkly mermaid costume while music from Disney's "The Little Mermaid" played. The performer was a woman but the video created a social media firestorm among people who thought the video featured a man dressed as a mermaid.
Next in the video was a female-presenting dancer performing to Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" as a toddler and a woman watched, while other clips showed dancers interacting playfully with children. The final scene showed a small child giving a dollar bill to a grateful dancer in a pink and purple tutu.
Another video by Kaye depicted several drag performers dancing as children watched, some with dollar bills held up as tips for the dancers.
In a written statement posted on its Facebook page earlier this week, Chattanooga Pride said there has been "endless lies" about its events, adding that its organizers and the businesses that hosted the events have been harassed.
"These individuals (who filmed and shared the event) -- who pretend to be concerned about the welfare of children --snuck into our event, recorded these children without the permission of their parents and have blasted these videos all over the internet for anyone to see. They have defamed the reputations of young actresses who graciously agreed to bring princesses to the youth of our community," the statement said.
"The individual portraying Ariel in the ("Little Mermaid") clip is not a drag performer but a cisgender female that does princess parties all over Chattanooga. Her tail was made out of a reversible sequin fabric, which is why the younger child was touching it. What the clip did not show was the performer redirecting the child by shifting to the side.
"Some of the clips circulating about one of the drag performers was from a completely different event, which was not affiliated with Chattanooga Pride. This event was also marketed as 18+. No minors were present."
The statement from Chattanooga Pride also said specific, detailed guidelines are being developed for all-ages events and that the organization has added security for events and the festival.
In a social media post, Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp said parents shouldn't take children to drag shows, and business owners shouldn't host drag shows aimed at children.
In his release, Moore rhetorically asked when the sexualization of children will stop.
"I don't have time to wait for that answer, and that's why I plan to pass felony legislation against any adult who exposes their children to these perverted, hypersexualized drag shows and remove their parental rights," he said.
Moore won the May 24 Republican primary in a close race with Steven Henry, the candidate endorsed by the seat's long-serving occupant, Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who chose not to run for re-election. With no opposing candidates in the Nov. 8 general election in the heavily Republican district, Moore will be sworn in Jan. 9, one day before 2022-23 General Assembly session begins.
In their Facebook statement, Chattanooga Pride organizers said that as a private citizen, an internet activist or a public official, it is disgraceful and inappropriate to try and ruin people's reputation.
The 2022 Chattanooga Pride Board, the statement said, stands firm against all forms of prejudice, bigotry, racism, homophobia and transphobia. And the board said it will continue to fight for its community.
"It is shameful that this is happening to our community," the statement said. "We also understand that this is part of a broader agenda that's taking place across the country: to replace love with hate; to divide people for political gain; to take away human rights at the expense of a small-minded worldview."
Staff Writer David Floyd contributed to this story.