Illinois bill defines 'woman' as legislators oppose state sponsoring teen drag show

“We’re sitting with a $800 million budget deficit and we’ve got state agencies paying for 10-year-olds to be sexually groomed,” said state Rep. Adam Niemerg. “These kids need to be protected."
Drag show for children

The Illinois Freedom Caucus is promoting the Women’s Bill of Rights to define biological sex and respect women.

House Bill 5830 from state Rep. David Friess, R-Red Bud, would define terms like "woman" and "man" and prevent judges and state agencies from redefining the word "woman" to mean anyone who “identifies” as a woman. Given Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s recent tweet stating, "I will fight like hell to protect women’s fundamental rights," the Freedom Caucus is hopeful he will ultimately sign the bill into law.

“Everyone here knows what a woman is,” said Friess. “This is not a hard issue.”

Several Democratic state representatives such as Janet Yang Rohr, D-Naperville, Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, and Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, were asked for their thoughts on the bill. They all declined to comment.

The bill was inspired by the Independent Women’s Bill of Rights and Abbigail Wheeler of Springfield, who said she was banned from her local YMCA swim team for speaking out against a biological male in the women's locker room.

“I shared my experience where I encountered men changing in the women’s locker room at the local YMCA. I expressed my discomfort and fear of both my teammates and I told the YMCA and my swim coach. I was dismissed and shunned for my concerns," Wheeler said Friday during a news conference outside the Illinois State Capitol. "I was laughed at by my coach and I was made to feel my discomfort was wrong and that I should just be quiet. Why should we surrender our right to privacy in our own locker rooms? It became clear to me what was happening was fundamentally unjust. By allowing this, it creates an environment where any man can freely enter a woman’s locker room, changing spaces and do whatever perverted action he pleases.”

Illinois laws use the words "woman," "man," "male," and "female" at least 997 times.

Legislators are also calling for the state to not support teen drag shows.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is a "Harvey Milk" sponsor of Springfield’s Pridefest. Republican legislators are calling on them to remove their sponsorship.

Harvey Milk sponsors pledge $2,000 for the event that features a “teen drag” show where 10-17 year olds will be provided a bag of supplies that contains “everything they need to create an impromptu drag costume.” Drag is wearing clothes typically worn by the opposite sex as a form of entertainment. Teens will participate in a costume change and perform on a stage.

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, called on state agencies to pull their sponsorships.

“We’re sitting with a $800 million budget deficit and we’ve got state agencies paying for 10-year-olds to be sexually groomed,” said Niemerg. “These kids need to be protected and we’re calling on every one of those individuals to pull their sponsorships immediately.”

Supporters say it’s the parents’ right to sign the children up for drag shows.

“Parents do all kinds of things that are inappropriate, but our biggest issue with this event is that the government is sponsoring it,” said Friess.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights also pledged $2,000 to become a sponsor. In a social media post, the department said it is a proud vendor and sponsor of the 2024 Springfield PrideFest.

Independent Women’s Voice ambassador Coach Kim Russell pointed to the media at Friday's news conference and asked a question.

“Maybe you're a Democrat or liberal … I ask you, do you want your children to be groomed by sexual predators and if our governmental agencies are paying for that … I ask you why?” said Russell.

Proponents of the PrideFest say it’s a family-friendly street festival celebrating the LGBT community and equality. The event festivities take place Saturday, May 18.