State Rep. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) has introduced a bill that he says would close a “loophole in child exploitation laws” after a 9-year-old boy performed in drag at a bar just outside of Columbus.
Jacob Measley, who performs under the name “Miss Mae Hem,” sparked outrage online in December after photos of him surfaced performing at JD Hendersons bar in Schaffer’s district. Under House Bill 180, the definition of “endangering children” would be expanded to include a “performance that suggests a minor is participating or engaging in sexual activity” that, “taken as a whole by the average person applying contemporary community standards, appeals to prurient interest.”
The bill also states that no Ohioan shall “entice, coerce, permit, encourage, compel, hire, employ, use, or allow the child to act, model, or in any other way participate in, or be photographed for, the production, presentation, dissemination, or advertisement of any material or performance that the offender knows or reasonably should know is obscene, is sexually oriented matter, or is nudity-oriented matter.”
“Given our heightened focus on human trafficking and the role money plays in trafficking children, I knew I had to take action to make sure this activity does not occur again,” Schaffer said in a press release. “We can do better to protect innocent children and we must do better.”
Measley’s mother Jerri, however, told The Toledo Blade that the whole situation has been “grossly warped.”
“Jacob is just a guy who likes to dress up and dance and feel pretty,” she said. “It’s kind of like Halloween every time he has the opportunity to do it.”
She said she and her husband make sure the songs their son performs to aren’t sexually explicit, and noted that they screen his performances before he goes on stage.
“Where else is there right now for children who identify as being in the LGBT community to explore that interest? There’s not,” she added.
Lancaster Mayor David Scheffler responded to the incident in a January Facebook post, and said that JD Hendersons didn’t violate any state or city ordinance.
“The owners and managers of JD Hendersons did not approve of or condone this activity. Upon learning of this performance, the owners quickly condemned the show and banned this troupe of performers from returning to the establishment,” he said.
Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), a vocal advocate for anti sex-trafficking legislation in the State Senate, told The Toledo Blade that she supports Schaffer’s bill.
“When we’re trying to prevent human trafficking from happening, especially the commercial, sexual exploitation of children, I don’t see how this is not very closely related to that issue—that concept of rape culture where we’re normalizing this type of activity,” she said.
As The Ohio Star reported Sunday, Ohio law enforcement recently announced that two individuals behind a human sex-trafficking ring in central Ohio were convicted and sentenced.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image “Miss Mae Hem” by Ohio Comes First; “Rep Tim Schaffer: by Ohio State Legislature.