LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A controversial bill reclassifying drag performances as adult entertainment and placing limits on where performances can happen has been approved by Arkansas senators.
Tuesday afternoon, the full Senate passed SB43 29 to 6, with the split going straight down party lines with the majority Republican caucus solidly behind the measure.
The proposed law would add “drag performances” to the list of adult-oriented businesses in the Arkansas code. Other businesses classified this way include adult theaters and cabarets, as well as nude modeling studios.
The language of the bill describes a drag show as one where the 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 bill has made national headlines but has faced little pushback from lawmakers at the capitol, where it passed unanimously from committee late last week.
While a number of lawmakers seem behind the bill, critics claim the language in it opens up strong possibilities for overreaching.
“Under the language of the bill, it seems that there would be no place for a trans person who expresses their gender identity different from their sex assigned to be allowed to perform in any way karaoke, poetry reading, Church choir, school play, pride event,” ACLU Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dixon said of the legislation.
The bill now heads to the Arkansas House.