Arkansas bill seeks to classify drag shows in the same way as strip clubs



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Athena Sinclair Drag performer MD Hunter, whose stage name is Athena Sinclair, testifies before a state Senate panel as state Sen. Gary Stubblefield listens, at the Arkansas Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on Jan. 19, 2023. AP/Andrew DeMillo

Arkansas senators passed legislation restricting where drag shows can be held, proposing to classify them in the same manner as strip clubs and adult theaters.

The bill passed on a 26-9 party line on Tuesday, with the six senators opposing the bill being Democrats. The bill would ban drag shows from being hosted on public property.

When asked if Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders supports the bill, spokeswoman Alexa Henning said that kids need to be protected, but didn’t signal if the governor would sign the bill.

“Governor Sanders believes we need to be protecting and educating kids, not indoctrinating them,” Henning said. “It’s time to get back to letting kids be kids again.”

The bill will now head to the Arkansas House, which is held by Republicans.

Opponents of the bill say that it singles out certain groups of people.

“It appears to me you’re trying to put a target on people’s backs that are not, according to you, normal,” Democratic Sen. Stephanie Flowers said.

Specifically, the bill would classify locations that hold drag performances as adult-oriented businesses, which would prohibit them from being within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, schools, parks, and libraries.

American drag queen Trixie MattelAmerican drag queen Trixie Mattel performs onstage during “Trixie and Katya Live” at ACL Live.Getty Images/Rick Kern

The bill defines a drag show as someone dancing, singing, lip-syncing, to an audience of two or more people while using a different gender identity than the one given at birth, and are “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.”

Democratic Sen. Clarke Tucker said the bill is unconstitutional, and likened it to bullying.

“The truth is, this bill is not about governing…it’s about bullying,” said Tucker.

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