National News Highlights — February 3, 2023

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Photo courtesy of Tequila Mockingbird / Facebook
Photo courtesy of Tequila Mockingbird / Facebook

North Dakota bill makes drag in public a misdemeanor
The bulk of the North Dakota House, 79-13, has approved a bill that would make it illegal to perform drag and cabaret shows in the presence of children or in public spaces, making such acts a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 360 days in prison and a $3,000 fine.

Repeat offenders could face felony charges, with longer jail time and heftier fines.

Rep. Brandon Prichard of Bismarck said that he proposed the bill after learning of drag shows performed in front of children. Rep. Lori VanWinkle called such performers "perverts" and said the bill would protect children.

"We cannot let right and wrong be based on the subjective thoughts of our culture, which can apparently no longer differentiate what is moral behavior," VanWinkle said, then promptly compared drag queens to pedophiles.

House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, an openly Gay Democrat, framed his counterargument in the context of parental rights.

"I hope that we leave this up to parents," he said. "We already have laws that restrict where people can perform with nudity or without nudity, so this further expansion is nothing more than continuing to police morality."

FDA dials back donor restrictions
The Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday last week that it has drafted guidelines that would remove the three-month abstinence requirement for men who have sex with men and wish to donate blood.

Instead, donors would be screened with a questionnaire meant to evaluate their individual risk for HIV based on sexual behavior and other factors.

The development comes as the FDA is seeking to expand donor eligibility. The new policies' impact would be greatest for Gay and Bisexual men in monogamous relationships, who would be able to donate blood for the first time in decades.

The draft would still exclude men who report having anal sex with new or multiple partners in the last three months, and women who have sex with Gay or Bisexual men.

"We feel confident that the safety of the blood supply will be maintained," Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA said.

"Current and former blood donation policies made unfounded assumptions about Gay and Bisexual men and really entangled individuals' identity with their likelihood of having HIV," said Human Rights Campaign member Sarah Warbelow.

FDA regulators will open comments on the proposal to the public for 60 days before beginning to finalize it.