Senators propose banning guns in Capitol; youth at drag shows

Jan. 13, 2023, 4:16 p.m. ·

Nebraska Capitol (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Nebraska Capitol (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Banning guns from the state Capitol, and banning young people from seeing drag shows, are among ideas being proposed in the Nebraska Legislature.

Sen. Dave Murman introduced a bill that would make it illegal for anyone under 19 to attend a drag queen show. It defines that as a performance by someone who exhibits a gender identity different from that assigned at birth, using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers, and who sings, lip syncs, dances or performs for entertainment.

Murman said he’s trying to protect Nebraska’s children:

“I think the vast majority of Nebraskans would agree that sexualized dancing and enhanced genitals is not appropriate for children to view,” he declared.

Murman said he’s never attended a drag show, but he’s seen videos on social media.

Sen. Megan Hunt said Murman’s bill would have unintended consequences.

“It would make it illegal for kids in high school to perform certain plays. What about ‘Hairspray?’ Under this bill it would be illegal from me to take my 12 year old to go see ‘Hairspray’ at the Orpheum or at the Holland Center. And that makes no sense,” Hunt said.

Hunt called the bill an attack on Nebraska’s LGBTQ community, suggesting it’s a solution in search of a problem.

“There is no danger in drag shows. There’s no need to prevent parents from taking their kids to, for example, a drag queen story hour, or an all-ages drag show. These things are not dangerous to Nebraskans,” she said.

Murman said he is not trying to impose censorship.

“Adults, whatever they want to do, whatever. But children, we need to protect them from being oversexualized and overstimulated, I guess, as children,” he said.

Hunt has filed a motion to kill Murman’s bill, which means she would get to speak first if the proposal gets out of committee and makes it to the full Legislature for debate.

And, lawmakers are gearing up for what could be a big fight next week over the rules for how the Legislature should run.

Among more than 50 proposed changes is one by Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh that would ban guns or other lethal weapons from the legislative spaces at Capitol. The only exceptions would be for guns carried by security personnel, members of the military, or historical reenactors.

Currently, concealed weapons are prohibited in the Capitol, but people can still carry openly.

Facing committee members from a table, with members of the public seated behind her, Cavanaugh recalled a legislative hearing on proposed gun controls two years ago.

“People were in the committee hearing room with weapons, very openly, right behind where I am sitting right now. And it was nothing short of terrifying for myself and for others, and I did not expect it. I did not know that that was even a thing that was allowed in the building until it happened,” she said.

Among those who spoke against the proposal was Calvin Pemberton. Wearing a cowboy hat and with a gun holstered at his side, Pemberton argued having guns in the Capitol could help protect people, and downplayed Cavanaugh’s fears.

“You can look at this both ways. I know some people maybe were scared, and they can find their little safe space eventually, that’s fine, you know, go to their therapy. But maybe one day, somebody that’s carrying could actually protect them, too,” Pemberton said.

The Rules Committee meets Tuesday to decide which changes to recommend, and Speaker John Arch says he hopes the full Legislature can vote on any proposed changes by Friday.