Arkansas bill limiting drag show performances headed to Senate floor

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,363 views 

SB 43, a controversial piece of legislation that has captured national attention, sailed through the Arkansas Senate’s City, County, & Local Affairs Committee on Thursday (Jan. 19) and is set for a full Senate floor vote on Jan. 23.

The bill, filed by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, and Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, seeks to classify a drag show as adult entertainment that would be limited to performances inside an adult-oriented business. With the limitation, anyone under the age of 18 could not watch a drag show. That stipulation would mean drag shows could not be conducted in libraries and other public venues.

When he filed the bill, Stubblefield said it was necessary to protect children.

“It’s destroying these kids’ innocence. They’re no longer kids. They’re seeing things that they shouldn’t be seeing,” Stubblefield told reporters.

Specifically, SB 43 would classify a drag show as one that “Exhibits a gender identity that is different from the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other accessories that are traditionally worn by members of and are meant to exaggerate the gender identity of the performer’s opposite sex; …”

The bill also says a drag show is one in which the performer “Sings, lip-synchs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience of at least two (2) persons for entertainment, whether performed for payment or not; and That is intended to appeal to the prurient interest.” The dictionary defines prurient as “having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters.”

The Democratic Party of Arkansas issued a statement Thursday opposing the legislation, noting that SB 43 “is replicated from legislation being introduced around the country as a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ fear-mongering is used to win partisan political elections …”

“It has taken only one week for the Republican Party to show their priorities are not on improving teacher pay, addressing criminal justice, or restoring reproductive choice for Arkansans, but on juvenile, divisive bills about drag shows that will do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of life for Arkansans,” DPA Chair Grant Tennille said in a statement. “Arkansas Democrats stand with the LGBTQ+ community and know SB43 is only the first of several planned attacks on our friends and family who are seeking only to live out their lives in peace in our state. It’s time to end these pointless, and undoubtedly, illegal distractions.”

Link here for a PDF of the two-page bill.