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Bill could limit drag shows in Arkansas, labeling them adult-only

If the bills become law drag shows that fall under certain criteria could only be held in adult-oriented businesses, or be vulnerable to lawsuits.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A bill regulating where drag performances can take place is headed to the Arkansas Senate floor for a vote.

“I'm not trying to ban anything; I'm not trying to ban adults from anything adults want to do, I simply want to protect our children,” said Rep. Mary Bentley.

Representative Mary Bentley, a republican from Perryville co-sponsored Senate bill 43. If passed, it would classify many drag performances as adult-oriented, restricting some businesses from hosting drag shows on public property and anywhere a minor can view them.

“It's not gonna be somebody in a theater that dresses in the opposite sex... that will not be part of the bill—it has to be prurient,” said Bentley.

Megan Tullock is the director of programs and advocacy for NWA Equality. She says the bill isn’t necessary because Arkansas already has obscenity laws in place that protect minors.

“I think that the legislature is trying to hold drag to a special standard, making it be only prurient. And prurience is really in the eye of the beholder,” she said.

Prurient is defined as "having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters." If passed Tullock interprets the bill as allowing drag to continue but allowing any citizen to decide the performance was prurient and sue the performer or venue.

“I think that when we create problems that don't exist, we waste tax money and time. And we do that in a way that makes a spectacle of the state nationally, around exactly these kinds of cultural issues that I think so many people are exhausted by,” said Tullock.

Many went to Little Rock to protest the bill, calling it excessive and discriminatory.

This bill will be heard by the full senate on Monday (Jan.23).

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