LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A bill now headed to the Senate chamber for a vote looks to regulate drag performances in the state.
Senate Bill 43 would outlaw drag performances in front of kids under 18 if it meets all three requirements. Drag performances would be included if they:
(a) 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
(b) Sings, lip-synchs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience of at least two persons for entertainment, whether performed for payment or not
(c) That is intended to appeal to the prurient interest.
The bill passed Thursday in Senate Committee on City, County, and Local Affairs and is now headed to the Senate floor for a vote.
People against the bill showed up not only to the committee meeting to take a stand against the bill but also the capitol steps after it passed through committee. Dozens of Arkansans came together for a rally Thursday afternoon saying this bill has it all wrong.
Many of the people at the rally said lawmakers who support the bill do not fully understand drag or drag performances.
“SB43 is a direct attack on trans and queer people,” Tien Estelle (they/them) said.
Bill sponsors said the bill is about protecting children and guarding them for content they believe is anything but wholesome.
“Children are worth preserving their innocence,” Rep. Jim Petty (R-District 29) said.
Estelle said the committee is not attempting to listen to them.
“Drag as an art form is not inherently sexual,” they said. “The people in the room today… the older white men making decisions… they didn’t care what we had to say.”
Estelle is urging Arkansans to call their lawmakers and speak out on their opposition to the bill before it heads to Senate floor, and after it potentially passes and heads to House committee/floor.