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Bill regulating drag shows advances through Arkansas Senate

Arkansas State Capitol building.
Chris Hickey
The Arkansas State Capitol building in Little Rock is seen in this file photo.

A bill that would regulate drag performances passed through the Arkansas Senate Tuesday on a vote of 29 to six.

Senate Bill 43 would classify performances involving cross dressing as “adult-oriented businesses” if they are done in view of children. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Gary Stubblefield of Branch, said he’s gotten “vulgar and obscene” pushback from detractors of the bill, which he says underscores the need to protect children from drag performances.

“Someone emailed me and said that I hated drag queens,” he said. “That's a lie. I don’t hate anybody. I do hate sin, because that’s the way I was raised.”

Stubblefield says the bill would only apply to sexually explicit material shown in drag shows, though that isn’t clearly defined in the bill’s text. Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, accused Stubblefield of putting a target on the backs of drag queens and the LGBTQ community as a whole.

“I don't understand the purpose of this because we already have laws that prevent lewd and lascivious behavior,” she said. “So what is your point other than to get national media attention?”

Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, said he has many problems with the bill.

“The truth is that this bill is not about governing,” he said “It’s about bullying.”

Tucker said the bill would violate the 1st and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution by targeting someone’s gender expression. He accused fellow lawmakers of supporting big government at the expense of freedom; something Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders vowed to fight in her inaugural address. Stubblefield responded explaining the bill was backed by his Christian beliefs.

The bill now goes to the House for a vote.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.
Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.