Houston’s sole lesbian bar, Pearl Bar, has been dealt a blow as it was denied insurance coverage for hosting drag shows.
According to Julie Mabry, the bar’s owner, insurance providers are deeming drag performances as a risk factor.
The Human Rights Campaign had previously provided funding to support Pearl Bar during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic.
Reflecting on her motivation to establish the bar, Mabry fondly recalls the transformative experience of visiting San Antonio’s renowned queer bar, the Bonham Exchange, with her sister in 1989.
Witnessing her sister’s joy that night, Mabry felt inspired to create a similar environment in Houston.
Her sister had faced numerous struggles due to her non-conforming identity, and Mabry wanted to offer a space where she and others could feel accepted and supported.
Pearl Bar, launched a decade ago, quickly became a prominent fixture in Houston’s vibrant queer nightlife. Unfortunately, Mabry now finds her business imperiled by the relentless efforts of conservative lawmakers in Texas to curtail LGBTQ rights.
For the first time since its inception, the bar was denied the necessary insurance policy, a vital component for its continued operations.
The reason behind the denial stemmed from the bar hosting drag shows.
This denial coincides with a broader campaign by the Texas GOP to criminalize drag performances throughout the state. In fact, a bill known as SB 12 recently received approval from the Texas House, aiming to prevent minors from being exposed to any sexually oriented performance.
The bill defines such performances as those appealing to prurient interests and empowers the Texas Attorney General to impose significant civil penalties and even criminal charges for violations.
Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School, emphasizes the insidious nature of this legislation, noting that it employs subjective language to selectively target the LGBTQ community.
Caraballo suggests that opponents of LGBTQ individuals and drag inherently perceive them as sexualized, enabling them to categorize these performances as sexually explicit, despite evidence to the contrary.
Mabry’s ordeal began when she sought a new insurance policy through a different agent.
The agent eventually relayed the disheartening news that the only underwriter willing to offer coverage quoted an exorbitant premium of $91,000, more than double the previous year’s cost.
Financial documents obtained by Chron support this claim. Regrettably, the underwriter backtracked and withdrew the offer entirely, citing the presence of drag as a reason for refusal.
Concerned about potential industry backlash, Mabry refrains from disclosing the identity of the underwriter or insurance agent involved. For the time being, Pearl Bar remains insured until December, but Mabry expresses legitimate concerns about the future.
The inflated expenses, primarily due to the inclusion of drag as a risk factor, threaten the viability of her business.
Caraballo underscores that Pearl Bar’s situation exemplifies a broader strategy by conservatives to undermine the LGBTQ community.
By regulating establishments like Pearl Bar out of business, these lawmakers aim to diminish the presence of LGBTQ individuals in public life.
While they employ the pretense of protecting children, their true objective is to marginalize and exclude the LGBTQ community.