Arkansas Senate Passes Bill Targeting Drag Performances

The Arkansas Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that classifies drag performances as “adult-oriented business,” similar to strip clubs and escort services.

The bill, Senate Bill 43, would prohibit drag performances from taking place on public property that are “intended to appeal to the prurient interest” and where anyone under 18 can attend.

It would also add drag performances to the state’s list of adult-oriented businesses, including adult arcades, book and video stores, and escort agencies.

The measure was introduced earlier this month by Arkansas state Senator Gary Stubblefield (R).

Under the Arkansas senator’s bill, a “drag performance” is defined as a performance in which an individual exhibits a gender identity that is different from their sex 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.”

Sen. Stubblefield argued during Tuesday’s hearing that the bill was drafted with the intent of “protecting children” from obscene or sexually explicit content.

The senator also said his colleagues should ask themselves “if God would approve” of drag queens before casting their vote.

“I can’t think of anything good that can come from taking children and putting them in front of a bunch of grown men who are dressed like women,” he said.

LGBTQ advocates have sharply criticized Stubblefield’s bill, which they say violates the U.S. Constitution and targets transgender people, according to The Hill.

Stubblefield said he received an email that alleged he hates drag queens, and that such a claim is a lie, local news sources report.

“I don’t hate anyone,” Sen. Stubblefield said. “I do hate sin,” arguing opponents of the bill are engaging in “scare tactics.”

Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D) of Pine Bluff said Stubblefield wants to put a target on the backs of people he doesn’t see as normal, and that people have cross-dressed for many hundreds of years.

“I am not targeting anyone,” Stubblefield responded.

Sen. Tyler Dees (R) of Siloam Springs commented, “We have an issue that is a cultural battleground right now and our children are at the forefront.”

The bill passed with a 29-6 vote, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats against.

It now heads to the Republican-controlled state House for consideration.