Arkansas Senate approves bill limiting drag performances
The Arkansas Senate on Tuesday (Jan. 24) voted 29-6 along party lines to approve SB43, which is a bill intended to regulate drag performances. The bill will be sent to the House for approval before heading to Gov. Sarah Sanders.
SB43 would classify drag performances as “adult-oriented business” and will add additional location restrictions for performances. Following is the list of activities classified as adult-oriented business.
• An adult arcade
• An adult bookstore or video store
• An adult cabaret
• An adult live entertainment establishment
• An adult motion picture theater
• An adult theater
• A massage establishment that offers adult services
• An escort agency
• A nude model studio
The bill states that adult-oriented businesses can not be located on public property. Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, who sponsored the bill, told colleagues he thought about the legislation after hearing criticism and didn’t change his mind.
“I can’t think of any good redeeming quality, anything good that can come from taking children and putting them in front of a bunch of grown men who are dressed like women,” Stubblefield said.
Stubblefield said children who are exposed to drag queens can cause confusion to the children about their own identity leading to the need for psychological help. He also addressed concerns that the bill would stop activities like Shakespeare plays in public by explaining the word “prurient” being in the bill gives leeway for those types of activities.
Sen. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville and Senate minority leader, spoke in opposition to the bill, but said he believes Stubbliefield is sincere in his intentions of protecting children. He said he doesn’t think the bill will do what it is meant to do.
“This bill won’t do anything to protect kids. It will hurt kids, particularly kids who struggle and don’t feel welcome and safe and accepted,” Leding said.
In addition to his concerns about the constitutionality of the bill, Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, said he believes the bill is government overreach and targets the trans community.
“If this bill were about protecting children from undue sexual influence, that is a conversation we could have. There’s a lot of activity out in the state that I think could arguably be undue sexual influence on children,” Tucker said. “If you go out to West Little Rock and go to Twin Peaks or Hooters there is activity 100% designed to appeal to prurient interest.”
Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, said it is easy to stay silent about this issue and added he won’t be silent while voicing his support for the legislation. He said the bill is only targeting sexualization.
In his closing remarks, Stubblefield pushed back against Democratic lawmakers who said the bill limits freedom. He said the bill makes people free to do what they want as long as kids are not present.
UPDATE: Gov. Sanders said Wednesday she would need to look at SB 43 before signaling she would sign it.
“We have to do everything to protect children and that’s what this bill does and I’ll be supportive of it in its current form,” Sanders said.