A bill that would regulate drag speeches passed through the Arkansas Senate Tuesday by a vote of 29 to six.
Senate Bill 43 classified cross-dressing performances as “adult-oriented businesses” if performed in the presence of children. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Gary Stubblefield of Branch, said he received a “vulgar and obscene” rebuff from the bill’s detractors, which he said highlights the need to protect children from drag performances.
“Someone emailed me and said I hate transvestites,” he said. “That’s a lie. I don’t hate anyone. I hate sin because that’s how I was raised.”
Stubblefield says the bill will only apply to sexually explicit material shown on drag shows, although this is not clearly defined in the text of the bill. Senator Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, accused Stubblefield of targeting the backs of drag queens and the LGBTQ community at large.
“I don’t understand the purpose of this because we already have laws against indecent and lascivious behavior,” she said. “So, what is your goal other than getting the attention of the national media?”
Senator Clark Tucker, Little Rock County, said he had a lot of problems with the bill.
“The truth is that this bill is not about governance,” he said, “but about intimidation.”
Tucker said the bill would violate the 1st and 14th amendments to the US Constitution by targeting someone’s gender expression. He accused fellow legislators of supporting big government at the expense of freedom; something Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders vowed to fight in her inaugural address. Stubblefield replied that the bill was backed by his Christian beliefs.
Now the bill goes to the vote in the House of Representatives.