Legislation that would see drag shows classified as “adult-oriented” in the same way as strip clubs and adult theatres has been approved by the Arkansas Senate.
Drag performances would also be prohibited from taking place on public property and would not be able to happen within 1,000 feet of churches, schools, parks and libraries.
Senate Bill 43 (SB43) was passed on 24 January in a 29-6 party line vote which saw all six of the chamber’s Democrats opposing.
It will now head to the majority-Republican House where, if passed, will make Arkansas the first state to place these kinds of restrictions on drag shows.
Speaking ahead of the vote, SB43’s sponsor, Republican Senator Gary Stubblefield, said: “If you need your child to be entertained by a big human in a costume, take them to the circus or something.
“To me, this is putting our children in situations that’s a violation of their personal boundaries.”
Democratic Senator Stephanie Flowers accused Stubblefield of using the bill as a way of “trying to put a target on people’s backs that are not, according to you, normal.”
“This will help no one”
SB43 comes as events such as drag queen story hours face increasing scrutiny from those on the right.
In fact, a report released by GLAAD in November found that drag events faced at least 141 protests and significant threats in 2022, with Texas having the most of any state at 20.
The bill broadly defines drag performers as those “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.”
Maddy Morphosis, a drag performer from Arkansas who competed on season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, was among the many LGBTQ+ people, activists and organisations who have slammed the legislation.
“This will help no one. But it will negatively impact businesses and organizations, as well as destroying the livelihoods of many Arkansans,” she wrote on Twitter.
“And it’ll just be the start, as many states will follow.”
This is, at best, censorship.
And at worst, blatant bigotry against the LGBTQ+ community.
I stand with the Arkansas queer community, and against SB43.
— ✨Maddy Morphosis✨ (@MaddyMorphosis) January 25, 2023
In a statement released shortly after SB43 was passed in the Senate, Human Rights Campaign Arkansas State Director Eric Reece urged lawmakers to “stop attacking our community and instead focus on real issues impacting Arkansans.”
“Many drag performances – such as Drag Queen story hours at schools and libraries – are age appropriate for children and can teach important lessons like acceptance and openness,” he continued. “This is just another example of radical politicians in Arkansas spreading propaganda and creating more stigma, discrimination, and ultimately violence against transgender and non-binary people just to rile up extreme members of their base, the only voting bloc they are moving on these issues.”
More than 100 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in the US so far this year
Despite it only being January, more than 120 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in the US so far this year.
These have been filed across 22 states, with the majority focusing on young trans people.
Texas has introduced the most with 36, followed by Missouri with 26, then North Dakota with eight and Oklahoma with six.