Arkansas Bill Seeks to Define Drag Shows as ‘Adult-Oriented Business’

Arkansas Bill Seeks to Define Drag Shows as ‘Adult-Oriented Business’
The Arkansas State flag and U.S. flag fly in front of the State Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on Dec. 1, 2022. (Janice Hisle/The Epoch Times)
An Arkansas state senator introduced on Jan. 9 a bill seeking to ban drag shows on public property or in areas that can be seen by minors.
Senate Bill 43, sponsored by Arkansas state Sen. Gary Stubblefield and Rep. Mary Bentley, adds a “drag performance” to the list of adult-oriented businesses in the state’s code. The local law currently deems adult arcades, adult bookstores or video stores, adult cabarets, adult theatres, certain message stores, escort agencies, and nude model studios as such businesses.
Stubblefield said the bill aims “to stop these drag queen shows” from being shown to Arkansas minors, according to Arkansas Online. “If they want adults, that’s up to them,” he said. “We have all kinds of laws to protect our kids.”

Under the proposed legislation, one would break the law for carrying out drag shows on public property statewide or wherever people under the age of 18 can view it. It doesn’t matter whether the entertainment performance is for payment or not, according to the bill.

It goes on to define a drag performance as something where a performer “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 new bill has been referred for review by a Senate committee.

In March 2021, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law legislation that bars biological males from participating in women’s sports, becoming the second state that year to adopt the measure aimed at protecting opportunities for female athletes.
In November, Texas Republicans also pre-filed a slate of bills to pursue at the new state legislative session in January, including measures to prevent children from seeing drag shows and classify sex-change procedures for minors as child abuse.

2021 Law

The state of Arkansas hit the headlines in April 2021 after becoming the first in the nation to enact a ban on hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgeries for minors.

The law, known as the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act, is currently being challenged in the courts, as a national debate over the procedures appears to be intensifying.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of doctors and transgender-identifying youths to throw out the 2021 Arkansas law, alleging that it’s unconstitutional. The group has denounced the law as part of a “hateful attack” on LGBT youths seeking “medically necessary care.”

But the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office is defending the SAFE Act, asserting that the state has a compelling interest to protect vulnerable children from medical interventions that can cause permanent harm, including ongoing health problems and sterility.

No dates have been set for attorneys to file final written briefs—the final pieces of the puzzle for U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. to consider before he issues a ruling. His decision could influence the way other states and courts respond to controversies surrounding similar legislation.

Moody will be considering two weeks’ worth of testimony that began with witnesses that the ACLU called in mid-October. After a month-long recess, the trial resumed on Nov. 28 with witnesses testifying on behalf of the SAFE Act.

A similar ban has been blocked by a federal judge in Alabama, and other states have taken steps to restrict such care. Florida medical officials last month approved a rule banning gender-confirming care for minors, at the urging of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Janice Hisle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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