Drag queen story hours have taken off across the nation, including in Minnesota, where the Hennepin County Library system created and hosted a Stories Together with Drag Performers during LGBTQ History Month last fall.

But not everyone's delighted, and some GOP lawmakers in St. Paul have proposed a bill that would cut regional funding to libraries that choose to host the reading events.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, the primary sponsor of a House bill, said he is not trying to make the drag queen readings illegal but does not want them to happen in public spaces with taxpayers subsidizing them.

"I believe the majority of parents and taxpayers would not rate drag queen story time as a G but probably an R," Gruenhagen said in an e-mail. "I also believe that if this is allowed to continue and normalized, the next step will be to mandate it into public schools where minor children will be exposed without parental consent."

Drag queen story hours have been around for a while, with libraries from Lincoln, Neb., to Orlando hosting them. The Hennepin County Library system advertised the events as a chance to "Celebrate self-expression, dress-up, and gender fluidity." St. Paul Public Library has also hosted the story hours.

Russ King has volunteered for story time at the Richfield library in his character as Miss Richfield 1981. He said last year he read the book "Neither," about finding a diverse and welcoming community. It took place in a corner of the library where the event wasn't imposed on anyone, he said. There are books at the library that he doesn't care for, King said, but he doesn't believe they should be removed — and he sees the drag queen story time the same way.

"It's an example to me of a colossal waste of time, and waste of energy, and waste of money," King said of the Republican bill. "There's kids that go to bed hungry every night, and these people are worried about a half-an-hour story time."

Gruenhagen's proposal is unlikely to go anywhere in the DFL-controlled House; it has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. It also lacks a companion bill in the Senate, where the GOP has the majority.

However, Senate Republicans have also raised concerns about drag-themed story hours.

"Every budget cycle the Minnesota Legislature spends millions of dollars on our system of regional, local and school-based libraries," the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus posted on its Facebook page in September. "Is Drag Queen Story Hour really the best use of these resources, and why should our kids be exposed to it?"

There are 12 regional public library systems across Minnesota that received nearly $14 million in basic system support from the Legislature (that is, taxpayers) this year.

Under the new House proposal, starting in 2021, any library that hosts a drag queen story hour would forfeit its fiscal allocation to the other libraries in its regional system.

Jessie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044-