PoliticsPress Release

Democratic response to Arkansas Senate committee passage of bill against public drag shows


LITTLE ROCK — Democrats in the Arkansas State Senate took to the chamber floor today to speak against passage of Senate Bill 43, a new piece of  anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. SB43 is a bill by Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) that would classify drag shows, where a performer sometimes (but not always) dons the exaggerated attire of another gender, as adult entertainment on par with strip clubs, pornography businesses, and escort services. It is replicated from legislation being introduced around the country as a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ fear-mongering legislation that is used to win partisan political elections and will next be heard next in a House Committee. 

Sen. Stubblefield didn’t shy away from openly attacking LGBTQ+ Arkansans, saying on the Senate Floor: “I can’t think of any redeeming quality in bringing a group of children in front of grown men dressed as women.”

“The sponsors say this bill will protect kids,” State Senate Minority Leader Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) said, “and I know they’re sincere when they say they want to protect kids—every one of us wants to protect kids—but even if you believe drag performances are anything more than fun and entertaining, what percentage of kids do we think are involuntarily witnessing drag performances? How often do we think this is happening? Where do we think Arkansas ranks in children who have seen a drag show? I know where we rank in child food insecurity: we’re number two. We rank 16th in teen suicide, 7th in child deaths by firearms, and 5th in child mortality.” Link to remarks >>

“The New Testament teaches love,” State Senator Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff) said. “I’m concerned about what appears to be targets on people’s backs for people you [Sen. Stubblefield] don’t consider normal. We already have laws that protect children from lewd and insidious behavior. What other point are you trying to make with this other than getting national media attention?” Link to remarks >>

“My question to this body is, when are we going to learn our history,” asked State Senator Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock). “We’ve been trying to control people’s lives for over two hundred years now, and where has it gotten us? We rank near the bottom in a lot of categories, and it’s not hard to figure out why. 25% of the kids in our state don’t know how they’re going to eat dinner tonight, and this is the first bill of consequence on the floor of the State Senate in this legislative session. The people of Arkansas have sent us down here to make better laws than this.” Link to remarks >>

“When people make us uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean we should make a law against them,” said State Senator Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock). “We’re talking all the time about choice. There was a conference and a rally about choice. Parents have a choice of where they can take their children. Nobody is making a parent take their children to anything untoward.” Link to remarks >>

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