Senate City County Local Affairs

Jan. 19, 2023


Jump to section below

Sen Rice: Good morning. I call Senate City, County, Local Committee to order. Chairman Senator Flippo is not going to make it back. Of course we never know in a session sometimes how long are they going to be, and this was set for on adjournment of Senate session, and he’d been absent for a funeral. Won’t be able to make it back so I’ll be chairing today. Welcome, committee. This is the first meeting that we’ve had and appreciate the members that have chosen to be on this committee. We have not had an organizational meeting. I don’t know if Chairman Flippo will do that with the different ones that normally present here in City, County, Local. The only order of business we have today is Senate Bill 43. Senator Stubblefield, I believe you’ve got an amendment if you want to go to the end of the table. Okay, we have an amendment to add on co-sponsors. Members you have that in your packet and I have a motion to add that to Senate Bill 43.


Sen Hammer: Motion.


Sen Rice: I have a motion. Do I have second?


Sen Sullivan: Second.


SB 43 Regulates drag performances

Sen Rice: Motion and second. All in favor, aye. Okay, your bill as amended. If you go down to the end of the table, we’ll allow you to present. And members we do have– we picked up the sign up sheet. We do have for and against to speak, and be thinking about– we would just ask as we do in any committee, be as succinct as you can with your deal. Try not to go over the same thing over and over, but be thinking about that for time. We’ll try to get to everybody that we’ve got signed up on the list from what we see so far. And we appreciate the media being here. I ask that you not get any closer up to members than you are now and we’ll be fine. Senator Stubblefield, you are recognized to present Senate Bill 43.


Sen. Stubblefield: Bill presentation

Sen Stubblefield: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, committee. I’m sure most of you have gotten some emails on this bill the last few weeks. You may know more about it than I do, but I’ve done a lot of research on this. I’ve talked to several people and I even did a poll in my own Senate district, and I’ve never done a poll where they all come out 100%. This one came out 100%. Let me tell you something I found out, scaring our children, stealing their innocence – and by the way, it is their innocence, when you’re young like this – creating addictive inner torturings, putting children in situations like this is a violation of personal boundaries. It confuses a child about their own identity and body. And on top of it, these individuals try to trivialize this, and I’ve had this said to me, trivialize this by telling you that this is a wholesome and family oriented entertainment. Our youth today have seen more and experienced more, and most of them has accepted this as absolute truth. There’s two truths in this world today. One is absolute, and the other is relative. These little kids, when they see things like this, they accept this as absolute truth. And they question it. Our youth today have experienced more of the ugliness of society, sex, and it has become a hidden burden in their lives. Sometimes they’re stripped away– they have had the innocence stripped away from their childhood.


Sen Stubblefield: This world has never been a safe place for our children, or secure place for our children, and the ultimate tragedy is that these innocent children, those who most deserve to be protected, have become fair game. I also believe that those of us who are parents and grandparents have witnessed so much craziness over the past few years that our consciousness has been desensitized to where we have lowered what we allow and these grievous issues to go unnoticed. We know it’s wrong, but we’ve seen so much and heard so much over the past few years that we just push it aside. We brush it aside. We can’t do that because our kids and our grandkids are at stake here. I ran into a lady– and I used this yesterday when I was speaking out in the rotunda, a lady from California had moved here. And I asked her– she moved to the River Valley– I asked her why she and her husband decided to move here. They said, because we looked at all the states, Arkansas was one of the states that had the most common sense and the most morality. So it’s not always jobs and education and safety that causes people to move to other states. Sometimes it’s morality and what we allow to go on in the state. I’m not going to drag this out. This bill, those of you– and I know you’ve all read it. This bill has some criteria in it that has to be met. All these criteria have ‘and’ behind them. In order for this bill to be effective, you have to break every one of these. And the last one in that list– and it’s a word, by the way, it’s a legal term. It’s called ‘prurient interest.’


Sen Stubblefield: That word ‘prurient interest’ means excessive interest in sexual matters. That is in the bill itself. Let me just finish up by reading you a testimony of a drag queen that made this statement about a year and a half ago. And listen very carefully because this is coming from a man who used to drag queen. “I have no idea why you want drag queens to read books to your children. I have no idea. What in the heck has a drag queen ever done to make you have so much respect for them and admire them other than they put on make-up, jump up on the floor, writhe around, and do sexual things on stage? I have absolutely no idea why you would want to influence your child. Would you want a stripper or porn to influence your child? It makes no sense at all.” Now these are not my words. This is a testimony of a person who is a drag queen. A drag queen who performs in nightclubs for adults. They don’t all do that, but this lady here does. “There’s a lot of filth that goes on, a lot of sexual stuff that goes on. And backstage, there’s a lot of nudity, a lot of sex, a lot of drugs. So don’t think this is an avenue you would want your child to explore. They could explore dressing up at home like we did, all like gay boys did. We all dressed up at home and had a great time. We had a great time with our girlfriends, putting on makeup, trying on clothes, things like that. But to actually get them involved in drag is extremely, extremely irresponsible on your part.”


Sen Stubblefield: “And I understand that you might want to look like you are with that, that you’re cool, that you’re woke, that you’re not a Nazi, that you’re not a homophobe. However what it may be, you can raise your child to be a normal regular everyday child without including them in gay sexual things. And honestly, you’re doing the gay community– you’re not doing the gay community any favors. In fact, you’re hurting us. We’ve already had a reputation of being pedophiles, being perverts and deviants. We don’t need you to bring your children around. So you should keep your kids at home, take them to Disneyland, take them to Chuck E. Cheese, but if you need your child to be entertained by a big human in a costume, then take them to the circus or something. When they turn 18, if you so desire, you can take them to a club on their birthday because it’s an adult thing, okay? So don’t run your child’s life and don’t ruin us because of what you’re doing.” Mr. Chairman, I’m closed.


Sen Rice: Okay, are there questions from the committee? Senator Bryant, you’re recognized for a question. If you’ll hit your microphone.


Committee questions

Sen Bryant: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Senator Stubblefield, that word, prurient, I’ve heard that it’s hard to define in the court of law. And the best definition that was given to me was you’ll know it when you see it. How will our prosecutors in our local jurisdictions– how will they judge that whenever they look to bring a case against an individual that violates this?


Sen Stubblefield: Well, that word prurient is a legal term in and of itself. So I don’t think the prosecutors will have any trouble defining what prurient means. They deal with that word all the time because, like I said, it’s a legal term. It shows the excessive interest in sexual matter. That’s what it means. So I don’t think there’s going to be any discrepancy when it comes to defining the word prurient.


Sen Rice: Senator Hammer, you’re recognized.


Sen Hammer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Senator Stubblefield, I just want to make sure I’m interpreting the bill right. You’re not denying them the opportunity to participate in this activity in a location, you’re just classifying the location where they can be established. Is that correct?


Sen Stubblefield: That’s correct. And let me add to that, Senator Hammer. I have gotten emails from people who say I’m shutting down Shakespearean plays. That’s not true. Because they would have to violate each one of these, including the prurient, in order for them to qualify to be charged with a criminal crime, because all these qualifications have ‘and’ after them, if you read the bill. So a lot of things– a lot of these things that are being put out are not true as to what this bill actually does. But it does keep little children away from this kind of activity, which can stay with them. If most of you remember– when I was three or four, I could still remember things that I knew were wrong. It stuck out in my mind. And they still stick with me today. And I’m older than most of you. And a lot of these mix up kids as far as their gender identity and other issues, we don’t really know how it’ll affect these kids to see these things when they’re little like this. So no, this would not stop Shakespearean or any other kind of shows like that as long as they stay within the guidelines of what this bill lays out, because all these words are connected with the word ‘and’. They would have to violate each one of these criteria in order for this to be able to kick in.


Sen Hammer: Follow up, Mr. Chair.


Sen Rice: Go ahead.


Sen Hammer: So in a text message I got from someone, it says, for example, Tootsie, currently playing at Robinson theater, Peter Pan is often played by a woman, and even Hot Springs local Michelle Crandall’s Charlie Chaplin impersonation, a community favorite. Would this bill in any way shape or form– and I know there may be differences of opinion in the room, but in your opinion, would this adversely affect the ability for those things to continue?


Sen Stubblefield: No.


Sen Hammer: On the basis of the last thing that you said with the legal wordsmithing that was mentioned?


Sen Stubblefield: With the legal word of prurient?


Sen Hammer: Yes, sir.


Sen Stubblefield: Yes.


Sen Hammer: Okay.


Sen Stubblefield: That would have to be one of the things that they violate in order for these others to kick in.


Sen Hammer: Okay, one last question. Is the word salacious used anywhere in this, or if you use that word in presenting this anywhere because also the message I received indicated that the word salacious was in the content of this bill and I don’t find it, and I just wanted to clarify whether or not–


Sen Stubblefield: The word salacious is not in this bill.


Sen Hammer: Okay, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.


Individual testimony against bill

Sen Rice: Thank you. Any more questions from the committee? If not, we have a sign up sheet. I’m going to ask– the first one signed up Jason Bailey, if you’ll come to the end of the table. Pull a microphone up to you, push your mic button, and recognize you to speak.


Bailey: Thank you. Good morning. My name is Jason Bailey, and I’m here today to speak against SB 42. As I read the language, I’m extremely alarmed. I’m concerned about how this bill is a violation of First Amendment rights. How can this bill help anyone in Arkansas, and do you committee members understand how this is truly a harm to the LGBTQIA community? Let’s get real. This bill may be advertised as an attack against drag queens, but the definitions in this bill make it very clear that the true target is the trans community. In this bill, drag is defined as a performance in clothing that is not congruent with the wearer’s gender, therefore preventing any trans people from accessing public venues as themselves. It may not be known to the committee members, but the trans community and drag queens have always been the vanguard for the gay community and gay rights. To attack either is an attack against us all. This bill is not about lewd performances, dress, or behavior. If so, Hooters would be shut down. So–


Sen Rice: Hold up right there. Members were not–


Bailey: Why am I being interrupted?


Sen Rice: Hold up. It’s a rule of chair right now. For the audience, one, silence your phones. We’re not going to have any– this is a committee meeting. We don’t have applause for or against, not going to have clapping, not going to have any of that. So if you have a problem with that, take it outside. Excuse me for interrupting. You’re recognized to proceed.


Bailey: Thank you. Why do committee members want to attack small businesses? Do committee members understand the consequences of this bill? Will a performing arts school like the one that I work at be able to have plays? Your definition of prurient is too vague. You’re leaving it up to prosecutors, and what is prurient to one might be different to the other. And unfortunately, you keep claiming that this is some legal definition, but I can not find a systemic checklist of things that have to be acquired in order for that definition to be met. We would not be able to perform stellar dramas without makeup on boys or pants on girls. We just recently last year did a play called Matilda, where we had to have a student dress as the Trunchbull. How are trans people expected to walk down the street or eat at their local restaurants? This bill endangers trans people, especially trans youth who are four times more likely to commit suicide than their peers. I am a survivor of suicide because of the white men in this room that have made this state such a hostile environment to what I had to grow up.


Sen Rice: Hold up. I’ve got a point of order. What is your point of order, Senator Hammer?


Sen Hammer: My point of order is that his characterizations of the individuals in this room is a direct assault that is outside the boundaries of what this bill is about. And I want it noted that the characterization that he just meant or that he just stated is a false accusation without any ability to substantiate it. Thank you, Mr. Chair.


Sen Rice: Okay, I’ll take your point of order. Sir, I’ll ask that you be succinct in what you’re saying. Keep it within the bounds, if you think you can do that, and I’ll allow you to proceed.


Bailey: Yes, sir.


Sen Rice: Thank you.


Bailey: The bill and endangers trans people, especially trans youth who are four times more likely to commit suicide than their peers. I am a survivor of suicide. I attempted suicide several times whenever I was younger because of the hostile environment that Arkansas poses to LGBTQ+ people. Should this bill pass, are you prepared for the amount of good trouble that could happen? If I go to Walmart and danced in a Dolly Parton outfit and lip synced to 9 to 5, are you ready to go after the Waltons? Think about it. Arkansas is ranked 47th in education, 48th in child mortality. However, we’re ranked second in the nation for child hunger, yet senators and House members of Arkansas spend their time attacking marginalized communities. And if it was not clear from the past that you all grew up in, we are here, we are queer, get used to it. I am done.


Sen Rice: Thank you for your testimony. Next up, we have speaking for, Jerry Cox with Family Council. If you’ll move to the end of the table, recognize yourself, and who you’re with. You’re recognized.


Family Council testimony for bill 

Cox: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. My remarks will be very brief. I think, first of all, it’s important to actually read the bill, as I know you have. And I’d like to just point out that this bill deals with minors and what happens to minors. You have full authority, and I would say a responsibility, to pass any kind of law necessary to protect minors. These are children. And so we’re not talking about really the focus being on adults. We’re talking about what’s best for children. And we have a different standard for that. We always have, and we always should. The other thing is, you have full authority to regulate and define what is an adult oriented business. That’s what laws do. So you have full authority to define what– and you’ve done that in the bill, which is good. You have authority to define and regulate what happens on public property.


Cox: And again, we all should do that. And I’m grateful that this bill addresses that. You have the authority to define what a drag performance is or is not. And this bill does that. And then finally, when talking about the prurient interest, that’s in every obscenity law in the country. That’s in all the laws that are dealing with material harmful to minors. The US Supreme Court established that as part of a test many years ago in defining what is obscenity. So I think the courts know full well how to deal with that word because it’s been in court rulings and been in the code for years and years throughout this country. And so it’s appropriate that it would be in such a bill. So I’m glad to sit here and say, well done. This is a good bill and we need to pass it. And we support it fully. And I’ll be glad, Mr. Chair, to entertain any questions.


Sen Rice: Are there any questions for this witness? Not seeing anything, thank you for your testimony.


Cox: Okay, thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, members of the committee.


Sen Rice: Next up, we have Holly Dixon if you come forward. If you will acknowledge who you are and who you’re with, and you’re recognized to testify.


ACLU testimony against bill

Dixon (ACLU): Good morning, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, Senator Stubblefield. My name is Holly Dixon. My pronouns are she/her, and I serve as the executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. I am a licensed attorney in this state and a lifelong Arkansan. The Arkansas Civil Liberties Union was established in 1969 to protect the civil rights and civil liberties guaranteed to all Arkansans by the US and Arkansas constitutions and civil rights laws. And there are ACLU members across the state and across the country. On behalf of those members and organizations, we ask that you vote no on SB43. We are very concerned that the language of the bill violates not only the First Amendment but also the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment among other legal issues with the bill.


Dixon (ACLU): The bill has been discussed somewhat, would revise Arkansas law to treat all drag performances as an adult-oriented business, placing brunch with drag queens or drag queen story hours or a drag queen reading a book with the same restrictions as a peep show, a strip club, or other clearly adult sexually oriented businesses in this state. As you know, the First Amendment protects Americans in Arkansas from government limits on our freedom of expression, including how we express our gender. Drag queens have the right to read books. Arkansas families have a First Amendment right to attend these events, and performers and business owners have a right to offer them. It is parents who have the constitutional right to control the religious and moral upbringing of their children, not of government, not of schools. That is a constitutionally established right of families.


Dixon (ACLU): Regardless of how you may consider drag or what you know about drag performances, it is a form of creative expression like any other form of creative expression and it is protected by the US and Arkansas constitutions. And under this bill, any place, public or private, where there is any type of performance by a drag queen would be relegated to an adult sexually oriented business with potential civil and criminal penalties. This could force private businesses to have to close or move. Not only does the bill redefine drag as some sort of obscenity, but under the language, it could also affect all transgender Arkansans. Under the language of the bill, it seems there could be no place for a trans person who expresses their gender identity different from their sex assigned at birth to be allowed to perform in any way– karaoke, poetry reading, church choir, school play, pride event, Miss Gay America pageant, and other forms of artistic and free expression that are protected by the First Amendment.


Dixon (ACLU): The language of this bill is so broad that it sweeps any public or private place into this regulation. So one’s own home would be subject to the restrictions of this bill. There are many legal problems with this bill, and we’re always happy to work with members to try to revise bills. But there are flaws in this bill that are simply fatal. The most fatal feature of this bill is that it targets the LGBTQ community. That’s an equal protection problem. And it’s the same flaw that we’ve seen in similar legislation that has been blocked by the courts. Whether it was a ban on same-sex couples fostering children or fostering and adopting children or on marriage equality or the trans healthcare ban that passed last session, they all suffer from the same flaw. And it can be easy to think about a constitutional concern as academic. This is not academic. This affects very real Arkansans. And it’s just the latest iteration of the long-standing tradition in the state, to vilify LGBTQ Arkansans. It is hurtful to these Arkansas and the people who love them. So for LGBTQ Arkansans and those who love them, past, present, and I dare say future. And to avoid divisiveness in our state, sending a hostile message to some of our most vulnerable residents, we urge you to please vote no. Thank you.


Sen Rice: I have a question– Senator Sullivan, do you have a question?


Sen Sullivan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. You mentioned earlier that this would prevent a drag queen story hour. The language of the bill says that the prurient standard is an additional standard. I’m not aware of drag queen story hours to children that violate that part.


Dixon (ACLU): I would agree with you, but we don’t know what the courts are going to say. And Senator, frankly, that inclusion of that word in this bill creates a constitutional word salad because prurient interest is one word out of one factor of a multi-factor test that was set forth by US Supreme Court in Miller vs. California in 1973. So to pluck that one word out of one factor of a multi-factor test and put it in this bill does not save the bill.


Sen Sullivan: Well, I understand, but your first response was you agree that that standard– I’m asking very specifically. You made it very specific statement that this would prevent or stop children’s drag queen story hour. And that’s just not accurate.


Dixon (ACLU): No, actually, it is accurate because prurient is not defined in this bill. We know the purpose of the bill is to prevent such performances. So it’s leaving it up in the air. It will have a chilling effect on that activity and free speech. And therein lies the problem.


Sen Sullivan: Because the role of the courts and the reason we have three branches of government is for the courts to make those decisions. That’s why the courts are there and the court will make that decision on what’s prurient. That’s not what we do as legislators. So, yeah, that’s the end of my comment. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.


Dixon (ACLU): If I may respond, Mr. Chair.


Sen Rice: Go ahead, yes.


Dixon (ACLU): There have been other states who have attempted to define prurient. Arkansas law can’t find a definition in Arkansas law, but there again, it seems that this bill wants to equate prurient with obscenity when that’s just not consistent with what Supreme Court precedent has been for almost 50 years.


Sen Rice: Senator Hammer, you’re recognized.


Sen Hammer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Would you cite again how long ACLU has been in the state, please?


Dixon (ACLU): We were founded in 1969, Senator Hammer.


Sen Hammer: Okay. And in some of your comments, it made me want to ask this question. I’m looking at the other things that are listed in here that are existing language which would be the adult cabaret, the adult living entertainment established, and do you know if historically, if ACLU was at the table trying to stop the attempt to get those items in the bill at the time it was passed?


Dixon (ACLU): Senator, I don’t know. I’ve been around a long time. I’ve been with the ACLU since 2006. I was our legal director before becoming our executive director. I may have an old file in my office that would say that. But I do know that attorney John Wesley Hall has litigated sexually oriented businesses and obscenity. And so that existing code language, regardless of how it was passed or who testified or what the makeup of that would have been, it has been litigated in the courts. But I would hazard a guess that our affiliate was probably not present at the time that these laws were passed in the 60s or the 70s because we were basically an all-volunteer organization for many years.


Sen Hammer: So will the ACLU be okay with all the other ones being listed in this bill then, if you weren’t there to fight against or fight for them?


Dixon (ACLU): We have not challenged the existing law. We’re here to speak on and against this bill and what this bill would include to that existing language. We’re not here to object to existing code.


Sen Hammer: Right. But your position is that you think that what’s being added to existing language is different than those establishments that are currently allowed to exist under current state law. Is that correct?


Dixon (ACLU): Yes.


Sen Hammer: Okay. Thank you.


Sen Rice: Senator Petty, was that you? Did you get yours answered? Any more questions from committee for this witness? Okay, thank you for being here.


Dixon (ACLU): Thank you, members of the committee.


Individual testimony against bill

Sen Rice: Next up, we have Michael Dutzer, if you’d like to come up. Please state your name, who you’re with for the record and you are recognized to speak.


Dutzer: Thank you. My name is Michael Dutzer. I’m a resident of the state of Florida. And I do business here. I am the CEO and executive producer of Mad Angel Entertainment. First of all, thank you for allowing me to speak to you today. I stand before you today to address the issue that is not only important for the LGBTQ+ community but for the city of Little Rock and the entire state of Arkansas and its economy. I’m talking about the recent legislation of SB43 that aims to ban drag shows in your state. But first, let me introduce myself a little more. Like I said, I’m from Florida. On January 14th of this year, I celebrated 12 years of marriage to my husband, Rob. We have two beautiful daughters aged 16 and 18, and our 18-year-old just completed her first semester of college with honors and planning to go to dental school. Together, we’ve built 5 businesses, including Mad Angel Entertainment, which owns and produces the Miss Gay America pageant, a competition for female impersonators.


Dutzer: Our pageant is an entertainment and personality-based competition that has franchises in 24 states and regions around the country, including Arkansas. As many of you know, drag shows have been a staple in the LGBTQ+ community for decades. They provide a safe space for individuals to express themselves as well as a source of entertainment and culture for the entire community. We build leaders not only in the LGBTQ community but in communities we live in. Our entertainers not only perform to make people laugh, they inspire people to have self-confidence in everything they do. They have raised money for charities, people in communities that have been affected by disasters. As we speak, we have a group of entertainers at a local charity here in Little Rock, helping clean and paint their facility to make life better for those who need it. Homeless individuals who were either rejected or neglected by their families.


Dutzer: Are you aware that laws like SB43 prohibiting shows in public places not only affect shows like ours, it affects the theatrical performance that assigns roles to others not matching their genders, such as Broadway shows to include Tootsie, which, as you mentioned, has just closed at the Robin center where we are now? Hairspray, Rent, Southside Pacific, Kinky Boots in Chicago. But beyond the cultural importance of drag shows, they also play a vital role in your city and state economy. Drag shows bring in tourism as people travel all over to see them. We bring in entertainers and dancers from across the country, approximately 200 people in our show alone over a four or five day period. The event draws in about 2,000 people traveling to your area to see the show. We have filled hotels to capacities, eat at your restaurants, shop in your stores, use your airport, your local print services, and visit your tourist attractions. Our company spends approximately $70,000 to produce a show here, a show that has roots here since 1995 when the show first took stage at the Robinson center.


Dutzer: As a matter of fact, our first Miss Gay America crowned in 1972 is Norma Christie, who is a Little Rock resident business owner and icon in the community, who also does a lot of charity work for people in your community. Drag shows are not inherently sexual. They’re a form of performance art and often include elements of comedy, music, and dance. They may include some adult themes or humor, but that is no different than other forms of entertainment that are also not suitable for children, such as stand-up comedy, musicals, and most cartoons on television. It is important to remember that parents are ultimately responsible for what their children are exposed to. Just like any other entertainment, it is up to parents to decide if drag shows are appropriate for their children and educate them in what they are exposed to in all aspects of life. We spend a lot of time talking to our own daughters about what goes on in the world, and that’s our responsibility as their parents.


Dutzer: In short, drag shows are not harmful. They promote positive values that are essential for people to learn like self-acceptance, diversity, and inclusion. Parents are the ultimate authority to decide if drag shows are suitable for their children. However, to make a blanket statement, blanket law, that would prohibit and take away the fundamental right for parents to choose what is and not what is not acceptable for their children. I urge you to consider the economic impact of this legislation, as well as the cultural and personal importance of drag shows for the LGBTQ+ community. Let us not turn our backs on the vital part of your city’s culture and economy. I thank you for your time. If you have any questions, I would gladly answer.


Sen Rice: Thank you. We have a question. Senator Hammer, you’re recognized.


Sen Hammer: Thank you. Would you mind restating the last comment you just made regarding economic impact, please?


Dutzer: That I urge you to consider the economic impact of the legislation.


Sen Hammer: Was there anything else beyond that? Was that your–


Dutzer: As well as the cultural and personal importance of drag shows for the LGBTQ community.


Sen Hammer: Okay. And you’re from Florida and you represent business. Is that correct?


Dutzer: That’s correct.


Sen Hammer: Okay. So have you personally ever sued or put financial distress upon a business that maybe disagreed with your position and you utilized the court system in order to either sue to put a private business out of business or create financial hardship upon the private sector?


Dutzer: No.


Sen Hammer: You personally or you have grouped together the LBGTQ community and the drag queens? You’re talking about them too as one. Are you aware if they have ever sued private business and caused economic damage to a private business?


Dutzer: I do not know people personally that have, but I’m sure there have been, yes.


Sen Hammer: Okay. Thank you.


Sen Rice: Seeing no other questions, thank you for your testimony.


Dutzer: Thank you.


Individual testimony against bill

Sen Rice: Next, we have Dakota Blackman. You’ll make your way to the end of the table. Please state your name and who you’re with for the record and you’re recognized to speak.


Blackman: Good morning, gentlemen. Thank you for letting me be here. I come here just representing myself as a citizen of this great state and as a Christian. I would like to say that I categorically oppose this bill. On both of those grounds. As has been stated previously, this bill is an unnecessary assault on the First Amendment rights of many of our state citizens. And in my opinion, it is an attack on their status as children of God. And the dignity and respect that that gives them inherently.



Blackman: Our brothers and sisters, our siblings in the trans community do not deserve to have their very existence, their expression of their identity made illegal. And it seems to me and to many others that this bill is so broadly and vaguely worded that this would allow what is functionally a state-sponsored persecution of them. Prurient, as has been stated, does not have a legal definition in our state which means that it is up to the person looking at them if something is prurient. A trans person going about their life in a public space, minding their own business with no intent to do anything can be seen by another who decides that that person is prurient. As for the other checklist, maybe they’re lip syncing to what they’re listening to on their earbuds. That’s a violation of this law if someone else decides that it is, at least as far as I can read it. I would oppose all of you to vote against this. At the very least, this bill needs to be more firmly worded with definitions attached for these terms. Thank you for your time.


Sen Rice: Thank you. Not seeing any questions. Next up, I have three more signed up. Is it Rochelle Britton?


Britton: Rochelle Britton, yes.


Sen Rice: If you come to the end of the table.


Britton: Thanks. This is on.


Sen Rice: Please state your name, who you’re with and you’re recognized to speak.


Individual testimony against bill

Britton: My name is Rochelle Britton. My pronouns are she, her. I’m here currently representing myself, though I have in the past served on the board of the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition. And I am opposed to this bill because first of all, I not only happen to be trans, I also happen to be a licensed attorney, possibly the first openly trans attorney in Arkansas, though I’m not 100% certain. And I’d like to echo what Holly Dixon just said about the definition about prurient. First of all, that is one word lifted out– one word of one element of the three-element Miller test that’s basically pulled out of the bill and– pulled out of the Miller test and used out of context. Furthermore, even if you can find court definitions of prurient, in the real world, it’s not going to be the court that decides what’s prurient, it’s going to be the– it’s going to be police and prosecutors. Do you think I look prurient? I know a lot of people would assume I am simply because I am trans.


Sen Rice: I just take that you’re using that as part of your testimony here and–


Britton: Yes, I am.


Sen Rice: –you’re not quizzing that–


Britton: I’m referring to myself.


Sen Rice: Thank you.


Britton: I’m referring to myself. Thank you. I’m just rough. It’s a rhetorical question. The problem is, first of all, the bill, the law that this amends isn’t justified over obscenity, it’s justified as a zoning law. The adult-oriented business law is based on zoning ordinances that many cities do to protect the area– that many cities have enacted to regulate, but not do away with adult-oriented businesses. And a lot of the stuff Senator Stubblefield mentioned goes on in drag shows, a lot of that alone would classify a business that does that type of drag show as adult-oriented. Drag queen story times, anything– public appearances by trans people, and the way it’s– first of all, the way that prurient is worded was that people who you think [inaudible] to say unusual things about some people are– trying to think here because I am a little neurodivergent. But the problem is a lot of people think just because we’re out here makes it prurient. It’s not. Second, the way the cross- dressing part of the definition is written, anyone who is– transgender people fit that part of the definition more clearly than non-trans drag performers do. There is a difference. And even worse, by lifting one word out of the obscenity definition, without the rest of the obscenity definition just twists the whole bill, the whole law into that stuff, especially when you start restricting public appearances. Again, you’re putting a lot more stress on the word prurient than anyone ever intended. There’s at least two other elements of the Miller test that prevents somebody from just walking up and saying, “This is obscene.” That’s the thing. Those elements are not carried over, and that’s part of the reason why this is a bad bill. Please vote no.


Sen Rice: All right, not any questions. Thank you for your testimony. Next up is Athena Sinclair. You can come up. Please state your name and who you’re with for the record. You’re recognized to testify.


Individual testimony against bill

Sinclair: Hello, I’m Athena Sinclair, and I’m just a local drag artist. So I want to first tell you a little bit about myself. So I work in this building quite often, actually, as M.D. Hunter. I run all kinds of different things for charity here in the state of Arkansas. Just a month or two ago, I fed about 200 plus people using my own funds. So drag is something that I do as self-expression. Drag is simply art. There’s drag in almost everything that we do in our daily lives, including movies, TV shows, plays, anything that we have seen there is some type of drag in there. Drag is not this sexually-oriented thing that you have been told that it is. And I do believe the person who has submitted this bill isn’t even familiar with what drag actually is. He told us about some unnamed queen saying all these different things about a drag show. I am a performer who has never drank. I have never smoked. I have never done any type of drug. I am having more clothes on than most people do in this room. I have on about eight pairs of tights at all times. So nudity is not a thing that you would probably see at a drag show. I could perform in this exact outfit doing a drag queen story time and you can not see any part of my body but my face and my hands. How is that considered sexually oriented? It does not make sense.


Sinclair: Also, there are all kinds of different types of drag performers. There are drag performers that perform in their born given gender. They’re straight drag performers. This bill will lead to all kinds of things, including censorship of different TV shows. There are major networks that have drag on TV constantly. And we actually have a straight drag queen that was on RuPaul’s Drag Race from here in Arkansas, who represented us on a major worldwide network. Those shows are going to be subject to censorship because of this particular bill. He mentioned earlier, and probably two days ago in his interview on the news that he actually did this bill because of God and it is wrong in the Bible. And I’d also like to– Representative Bentley, last session called trans people an abomination and she’s a sponsor of this bill. So don’t tell me this bill is not about hate towards the LGBT plus community. There is no need for this bill.


Sinclair: I know that you asked earlier about drag queen story time and that this wouldn’t affect that, however, then what’s the point of the bill? What is the point? We have no case here that people have been sexually orientating your kids at all. There’s not been one single case. So this seems like it’s just happening for no reason because other people in the country are doing it. If we had an issue with this, in the state, I would fully support this. However, there has not been one instance that this bill was needed or kids being groomed or anything like that. That makes no sense. I was not groomed as a kid. I’m from here in Arkansas. And the first time that I ever saw a drag queen was in Beebe, Arkansas, at a play of Rocky Horror Picture Show. It wasn’t a drag queen. It was someone performing on stage and I decided that I wanted that to be my next medium of art. And now I perform all around the country doing it. So this bill is going to just completely destroy what we do as an art form and make it a sexually oriented thing that it’s not. And that’s all I have to say and I’m open for questions.


Sen Rice: Are there any questions from the committee? Not seeing any, thank you for being here


Sinclair: Thank you.


Sen Rice: Next up, Ally Tomlinson. You can come up to the end of the table. Please state your name, who you’re with for the record and you’re recognized to speak.


Individual testimony against bill

Tomlinson: Ally Tomlinson. I am against this bill. Now I know some of you know me in a professional manner, but I do want you to know that I am here today just on my own accord. It took me a little bit to get here. I wasn’t prepared for you all to meet today, so I actually have on my assistant shoes so I didn’t wear my tennis shoes in here, so y’all should be happy about that. But I am very glad that you were able to define just a little bit about some of the questions that I know a lot of us had about the bill. So the prurient, I know a lot of us had a question about that, and what you explained, which was the legal excessive interest in sexual matters. Now, I do want to note this is something that I know a lot of us have been talking about. Most of us have never had the opportunity to come in here and discuss anything about Hooters before, whether we are for or against that. And that is a family-oriented business. That’s what they say about that. And I know that a lot of you are very, very concerned about stripping the innocence away from children. But we have never been able to have a discussion together about that, whether we’re for or against it. So I want you to know that that really makes the LGBTQ community feel like what we’re doing here today is a personal attack. That’s why you’re feeling the passion that you’re feeling today because we’ve never had any other discussions besides the innocence of children until it comes to the LGBTQ community, just really preserving that innocence. So that’s the reason why your constituents are coming to you and they’re discussing this with you. They’re really trying to convince you to also represent them in this time.


Tomlinson: I also really want to remind you that at the beginning of this session, which I know it’s just started, that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, our new governor, said that the freedom and the responsibility is going to be given back to Arkansans, which a lot of individuals are very excited about that. And the 50 family members that you were able to survey, they said that they would not choose to take their children to drag shows and they haven’t done that. I love that statement. I love what you were saying that they have not done that and it was that choice, that choice that they had. I think if we are going to give choices back to Arkansans, it’s all Arkansans. It’s not just the Arkansans that our values align with. It’s not just Arkansans that your values align with, or that your walks of life go hand-in-hand with. It has to be everyone. We can leave this choice up to family members. They do not have to take their children to drag shows. They don’t have to do that if they don’t want to, but we can leave this decision up to family members if we want to. I think that you have to understand that having a bill that specifically says wearing clothing, and I’m just going to abbreviate this, but wearing clothing that wasn’t assigned to you at gender, that this is a bridge for hate and for weaponizing violence. This is making something very sturdy. If that’s something that you’re going to do, you have to understand that the people in Arkansas will use this, whether it’s individuals that are just listening to you talking and forming their own opinion. I want to ask you to represent everyone, not just the people that think like you do personally, but represent the constituents that don’t think like you, that don’t live a life like you. Put it upon yourself to go out of your way to represent the other individuals that are in your constituency, please. Thank you.


Sen Rice: Would you take a question? Senator Hammer, you’re first.


Sen Hammer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Would you please identify yourself again?


Tomlinson: I will. Ally Tomlinson.


Sen Hammer: Okay, and you recognize, or you said that some of us may know you and I’m trying to make the connection where I might know you from.


Tomlinson: So I do a lot of disability rights work. Yes, but today I am here just in a personal matter just to try to speak to you as a constituent.


Sen Hammer: Okay, all right, thank you. And then I may be wrong on this, so you correct me if I am. I don’t mind being corrected, but it seems to me like when Governor Huckabee Sanders made that comment that she was speaking about it in terms of educational choices and school choices. I don’t recall that statement being made in the broad characterization that you’ve used. Can you speak to that, please?


Tomlinson: That, and she also used that when we were talking about COVID and pulling back on some of those restrictions. So she made that also.


Sen Hammer: In context to those two things.


Tomlinson: Yes. And so I know that a lot of her platform has been about giving choices, but choice and personal responsibility back to Arkansans. So no, it has not been used specifically to this, but a lot of the platform and a lot of the agreeance from the majority of the seats that are held has been all about personal freedoms and choices. And I think that that should be able to run deep within everything that’s trying to be passed.


Sen Hammer: Okay. I think that would be her choice and not ours to invoke upon her without her being here to speak to that, but I just want to bring clarity that that’s the way I remembered the context of which that statement was made. And then the last thing is simply this. A couple things I’ve heard today from different presenters have included the word hate and I’m just curious, what is your opinion as far as what drove the decision for the LBDGQ– never can get it right. I apologize. Or in this case, the drag queens because they are being used in the same terminology. What do you think it is that drove them to go after private businesses and about other entities who maybe disagree with lifestyle? Because there seems to be a little bit of hypocrisy that we want to be defended over here but at the same time want to go after those who disagree with us, and I’m trying to rationalize what’s the difference if it’s all right to do it one way but not do it the other. And I’d be curious to hear your response. Thank you.


Tomlinson: I just want to clarify when you say, “Go after,” will you just explain that to me because I don’t want to speak about something that I don’t know. I want to be able to actually tell you but I don’t have the information on that.


Sen Hammer: Well, I’m thinking about the usage of the law and the usage of the court system to go after private businesses who disagree with the lifestyle but yet they end up getting dragged into court, and it would seem like hate would be equally applied that if we were being accused or others are being accused of being projected as hating the population under discussion, that it has been equally displayed by the population under discussion toward others who disagree with them. And I’m trying to rationalize why is it okay for one but not for the other from the perspective that you’re speaking against this bill.


Tomlinson: So, Senator Hammer, I want to be able to answer any question if I can, but I never want to answer a question if I don’t feel comfortable doing that, but you have a true expert here in the room, someone that has lived that life. Someone that actually works in drag and I would love to just pass that microphone along. I know that I can’t now since they have already done that testimony, but I would really like to just defer that since I am not actually the expert on that in the room.


Sen Hammer: Okay, well I’m going to take you as– I’m going to leave it with your testimony because your words are your words and that word was used in your testimony. So I’ll leave it with you and if you choose not to answer it, I can accept that. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.


Tomlinson: Okay. Yes. And I just want to clarify, not hate. So I did not use the word hate on that part. It was just a personal attack in that I felt like it would be used from other Arkansans, so everyday Arkansans to feel like it was okay to hate. So not necessarily business owners or anything like that, just everyday people to be able to hate, but a personal attack from the legislature. So I’m sorry if there was any mix-up in that.


Sen Hammer: Thank you.


Tomlinson: Thank you, sir.


Sen Rice: Senator Sullivan, you’re recognized for a question.


Sen Sullivan: You talked about people have not had an opportunity to talk about these issues of child protection, yet we have a whole list on this bill of businesses that have been listed as adult businesses, so those conversations have happened.


Tomlinson: So are those adult businesses already– children are already not allowed to go there, right?


Sen Sullivan: But you made the comment that we’ve never had in the past. We’ve never had the opportunity to talk about protecting children from whatever that we have. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have adult businesses.


Tomlinson: Adult businesses. Okay.


Sen Sullivan: Your statement doesn’t seem to ring true.


Tomlinson: I’m so sorry about that. So I guess what I’m saying. I should have reworded it and made it clearer.


Sen Sullivan: Okay. Go ahead.


Tomlinson: Okay. So our generation that you’re speaking with today, so around the same, we have Hooters, and I will not tell you how long that it’s been here. I don’t want to speak to something that’s untrue. But that seems to be a family-oriented business. It’s out there. It rings to be something that you can bring the whole family to because it’s a sports bar and it’s a restaurant, but it’s also used to overly sexualize the female population in that, and we do know that.


Sen Sullivan: Well, wait, wait, wait, wait. Whoa. So I apologize. May I respond to your statement?


Tomlinson: Yes, as long as you let me follow up.


Sen Sullivan: If they were violating the law, they’d be listed under an adult business, and they’re not.


Tomlinson: Oh, I’m so sorry if that’s what you thought that I was saying. I’m so sorry.


Sen Sullivan: Well, I thought you were saying that Hooters sexualizes children. And if they did, they would be classified as an adult business.


Tomlinson: No. And I also want to make sure that we know that drag queens do not sexualize children either.


Sen Sullivan: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair.


Tomlinson: And I must have misread the bill wrong if we are saying that drag queen sexualize the bill. Was that what we were doing?


Sen Stubblefield: No.


Tomlinson: Okay. I just wanted to make sure, thank you so much for letting me ask you that question. Thank you.


Sen Stubblefield: You’re welcome.


Sen Rice: Senator Petty, you’re recognized for question.


Sen Petty: Thank you, Mr. Chair. So my question– and I love the statement that you said about taking the innocence of children, because to me, being a freshman, going in and looking at the– I had to look at the full context of the existing law versus the amendment that’s being added to this law. And so I love that you identified that children are worth preserving their innocence. And I’m not putting words in your mouth, but that’s the way I understood your comment. But to me, if you read the legislative intent – and it’s public; you can look at it – and you look through everything in context, the existing bill and the amendment. I don’t think – and I think the questions have been answered – that this is intended as an attack, or as someone said, aims to ban drag shows. I don’t think any of that is the legislative intent of this amendment. I think the legislative intent of the existing law with this addition is found in number two where it says, “Adult-oriented businesses should be separated from schools, playgrounds, places of worship, and other places frequented by children to minimize the impact of secondary effects of the adult-oriented business.” And the pretext to all of this, there were a number of Supreme Court cases and other state cases that were discussed and talked about prurient, and I think it is well defined in the law. Maybe there’s a disagreement as whether it’s well defined in Arkansas or not, but the Supreme Court and others have defined it. I’m not an attorney. Don’t profess to be an attorney. Don’t want to be an attorney, but I do read. And while it is also– the reference was to zoning, I think that everything we’re talking about is in reference to zoning to protect the innocence of the children. And so I think the broad characterizations that we’ve heard here is really not the intent. The legislative head don’t want to speak for the sponsors. But to me, that’s where I think we’re at now. That being said, to your Hooters point, Hooters does have restrictions as a bar, and it can not be within a certain distance of many of these places. And I don’t know that any of us would want to change that. But are there any other categories of these adult-oriented businesses that you feel like that are listed in the– not in the amendment, but in the code that should be revisited as well?


Tomlinson: I think that the Hooters– what I was trying to tell you is that the individuals that you’re hearing from are speaking to you with passion because they do feel like they’re being attacked because we hear a lot about this innocence with children when it comes to the LGBTQ community. So I know that we are all very hung up on the word, “Hooters,” and so I’m so sorry to blatantly put that out there. Maybe I should have just used a broader word of businesses, but I wanted you to know that there is no disrespect for the individuals that are coming in here. You’re feeling the passion because individuals are feeling like they are blatantly being attacked and there’s a lot of legislation that’s coming down on them because they are feeling like their jobs, their self-expression, different things like that, are taking the innocence away from children, and that’s just not the case. So there are parades. There are festivals. There are individuals that are fully clothed, even their sleeves completely rolled down. So my arms, they’re just showing more. And then what you’ll see at a lot of festivals, and we just went to one in Conway, and it’s a beautiful experience, and there is nothing being sexualized at all about that. But the merit of the art, how will the court see that? And it just seems like it can be really dangerous and a slippery slope.


Sen Rice: Okay. Not seeing any more questions, thank you for your testimony today.


Tomlinson: Thank you so much, and thank you for the questions. I hope you all have a great day.


Sen Rice: And, members, that finishes up on those that signed up to speak, Senator Stubblefield, on your bill. And if we have any member questions for Senator Stubblefield after testimony, now would be the time for that. If not, then, Senator Stubblefield, you’re recognized to close for your bill.


Stubblefield closing for bill

Sen Stubblefield: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, committee, and thank each one of the individuals that came and spoke today. In regard to the economic impact of passing this bill, I think we found that many of the states, including Florida who lost $140 billion in Disney World alone, finding that going woke was going broke, and it cost a lot of other states a lot of money by because these corporations found out that the average citizen does not go along with their ideology. And just like these groups that came up here today and spoke their hearts’ convictions. That’s what they believe. As a Christian, I believe differently. I believe that, for example, in Deuteronomy 25. I believe the Bible. I believe that if the Bible says that if a man dresses like a woman and a woman dresses like a man, it is an abomination of God, I have the right to do that. Under all of our rights, the Bill of Rights, with each one of those rights comes a duty. Just because you have the right to free speech doesn’t mean you have the right to go in a hotel or, I mean, a theater and yell fire. Just because you have the right to own a weapon to protect your property, your family, yourself, doesn’t give you the right to go out and buy a gun and kill an innocent person. The founders knew this. They knew that each one of these rights that they had granted to us, they didn’t grant it. God granted it to us. The bill of rights did not  come from the constitution or the government. They came from Almighty God, and they recognized this. But with each one of those came of corresponding duty, and we have a duty to uphold those. I happen to believe this way because I’ve talked to a great number of people in my district, and I think if you’ll talk to those in your district – of course, it’s a little late now – you’re going to find out the same thing. But if there’s ever been a day to protect our children, children are being exposed today to things that 30, 40, 50 years ago, we couldn’t even imagine. We could not even imagine. It is a shame that we even have to bring a bill up like this to protect our children because they are going to be the ones one of these days that sit here in these seats and make laws that our grandchildren and future generations are going to have to live by. So I would appreciate a good vote, and I want to thank you again for all your debate.


Vote on the bill 

Sen Rice: Okay. What’s the wishes of the committee? I have a do pass. I have a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed? SB 43 passes. It will be transmitted to the Senate.

I want to say I appreciate everyone being here. I appreciate the debate and the orderly– you did well with the information. As you know, this proceeds on in the legal process, and thank you for being here today.

[audience interruption]

You can take your comments outside.

[audience interruption]

The committee has not been ruled over yet. If you’re going to talk, you would need to go outside. Members, Senator Flippo will be back and be talking about as we’re going to meet, as I believe, Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that will be at the call of the Chair, and thank you for being here. The committee meeting is over.