Jan. 24, 2023

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Lt Gov Rutledge: The Senate will be called to order. Are there any requests for leave at this time? Seeing none, Madam Secretary, please call the roll.


Madam Secretary: Boyd, Bryant, Caldwell, Chesterfield, Clark, Crowell, Davis, Dees, Dismang, Dotson, English, Flippo, Flowers, Gilmore, Hammer, Hester, Hickey, Hill, Irvin, Blake Johnson, Mark Johnson, King, Leding, Love, McKee, Murdock, Payton, Penzo, Petty, Rice, Stone, Stubblefield, Sullivan, Tucker, Wallace.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thank you, Madam Secretary. If everyone in the chamber and galleries would please rise for a prayer led by Senator McKee, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.


Sen McKee: Please pray with me. Our God and Father in heaven, we are so grateful to be able to come together today to represent our friends and our families and the great people of the State of Arkansas. Lord, we pray that you would grant us wisdom and knowledge today, Lord, that we would love one another as you loved us. We pray that everything that we do here would be in accordance with your will and would be pleasing in your sight. We pray that you would keep our first responders and those who go into harm’s way on our behalf, that you would keep them safe and return them to their families this evening. We’re just so grateful for the freedom that we enjoy and all the ways that you love us and have blessed us. We ask all these things in Jesus’ name, amen.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Ladies and gentlemen in the gallery, welcome to the Arkansas State Senate. It’s our expectation that each of you will exercise proper decorum and govern yourselves accordingly during today’s proceedings. Without objection, the rules will be suspended. The Senate will dispense of the reading of the journal. Morning hour has now begun. Are there any announcements or introductions at this time? Senator Johnson, you are recognized. Senator Mark Johnson, you’re recognized.


Sen M Johnson: Thank you, Madam President. It is my honor to recognize, if you’ll stand, in the west gallery, my friend, former senator Tim Wooldridge from Paragould, a member of this body, a dear friend and a great Arkansan. Please give him a hand. Thank you.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thanks, Senator Johnson. Are there any other announcements at this time? Seeing none, Madam Secretary, are there items at the desk?


Madam Secretary: Yes, ma’am. We the committee on City County Local to whom was referred House Bill 1090 by Representative Watson recommended do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: Committee on City County Local to whom was referred House Bill 1100 by Representative Collins recommend do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: We the committee on Joint Budget to whom was referred Senate Bill 13 by Joint Budget recommend do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: We the committee on Joint Budget to whom was referred House Bill 14 by Joint Budget recommend do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: We the committee on Joint Budget to whom was referred Senate Bill 19 by Joint Budget recommend do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: Committee on Joint Budget to whom was referred Bill 21 by Joint Budget recommend do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: Committee on Joint Budget to whom was referred Senate Bill 28 by Joint Budget recommend do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: Committee on Joint Budget to whom was referred Senate Bill 63 by Joint Budget recommend do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: We the committee on Joint Budget to whom was referred Senate Bill 64 by Joint Budget recommend do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: We the committee on Rules, Resolutions, and Memorials to whom was referred Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 by Senator Penzo recommend that it do pass as amended number 1.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: We the committee on State Agencies to whom was referred House Bill 1023 by Representative Fortner recommend do pass.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Calendar.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 100 by Senator Boyd, To amend the law permitting a law-enforcement officer to transport a person in crisis to a sobering center, Senate Bill 100.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Judiciary.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 101 by Senator Dotson, To amend various provisions of the Arkansas code as they pertain to the University of Arkansas. Senate Bill 101.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Education.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 102 by Joint Budget, An act for the Arkansas State University Three Rivers appropriation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Senate Bill 102.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Joint Budget.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 103 by Joint Budget, An act for the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville appropriation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Senate Bill 103.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Joint Budget.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 104 by Joint Budget, An act for the Arkansas State University Newport appropriation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Senate Bill 104.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Joint Budget.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 105 by Joint Budget, An act for the Arkansas State University Beebe appropriation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Senate Bill 105.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Joint Budget.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 106 by Joint Budget, An act for the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff appropriation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Senate Bill 106.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Joint Budget.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 107 by Joint Budget, An act for the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton appropriation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Senate Bill 107.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Joint Budget.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 108 by Joint Budget, An act to make an appropriation for the Southeast Arkansas College for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Senate Bill 108.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Joint Budget.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 109 by Joint Budget, An act for the South Arkansas Community College appropriation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Senate Bill 109.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Joint Budget.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 110 by Joint Budget, An act for the SAU Tech appropriation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Senate Bill 110.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Joint Budget.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 111 by Senator Irvin to allow certain insurers to offer family leave insurance. Senate Bill 111.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Insurance and Commerce.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 112 by Senator Boyd to authorize physician assistants to be identified as a treating provider for insurance billing and claims in the bill and receive payment for provider healthcare services. Senate Bill 112.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Public Health. Thank you. Are there any further business to come before the body in the morning hour? Seeing none, the morning hour has expired. We will now start the business agenda. Madam Secretary, please read Senate Bill 43.


Madam Secretary: Senate Bill 43 by Senator Stubblefield, et al, to classify a drag performance as an adult-oriented business and to add additional location restrictions to an adult-oriented business.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Senator Stubblefield, you are recognized.

SB 43 Regulating and limiting drag performances 

Sen Stubblefield: Thank you, Madam President. Colleagues, I’ve been here 12 years. And every day, every Thursday when we leave, usually on Thursdays, I get home and the first thing I do is go in, help my wife because my wife comes with me every trip, and I hit my voicemail, which is always full. Well, this last week, when I hit my voicemail, I heard some of the most vulgar, obscene language that I didn’t even know exist. I really didn’t. I’ve never heard these words put together before by a group of people that want other people to bring their children and put them in front of them so they can read a book. And I thought, I can’t think of any redeeming quality, anything good that can come from taking children and putting them in front of a bunch of grown men who are dressed like women. I thought and I thought and I thought. I couldn’t come up with anything. 

This bill really is very simple. It reclassifies what a drag performance is, and let me just go through it real briefly with you. And by the way, I have also the testimony of a Miss Kitty Demure who is a drag queen. Let me read to you what she says. ‘I have absolutely no idea why you would want to influence your child. Would you want a stripper or porn star to influence your child? It makes no sense at all. I have no idea why you would want drag queens to read books to your children. I have no idea. What in the heck has a drag queen ever done to have you have so much respect for them and admire them so much that putting on makeup, jumping up on the floor, writhing around on stage is going to help your child? And I understand that you want to look, that you want to look like you are with it, that you’re cool, that you’re woke, that you’re not a Nazi, that you’re not a homophobe, whatever it may be, but you can raise your child to be a normal, regular everyday child without including them in gay, sexual things.” That wasn’t written by me. That was written by a drag queen. 

We live in a world today that is so unlike the world that I grew up in that it’s hard for me to even take it in. We are seeing things today that no one could have predicted 40, 50 years ago. Morally, we’re going down a funnel. It’s like Thomas Jefferson said. He said, “America will never be taken over from the outside. We’ll be taken over from the inside.” Like what happened to Rome and many other countries from moral decay from the inside. California currently has 67 different– you can identify in California for your child 67 different genders. Now, when you take one of these little kids and put it in front– put them in front of drag queens that are men dressed up like women, do you think that helps them or confuses them in regard to their own gender? We have a lot of kids today that are so confused about their own gender that some of them are having to go to psychologists and get help. And yet that’s exactly what’s taking place all over this country. 

“So if you keep your kids at home,” drag queen again, “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 a circus or something.” To me, this is putting our children in situations that really is a violation of their personal boundaries, confuses a child about their own identity, their own body. And on top of this, we have these individuals that trivialize this whole thing and say, “This is a family-oriented entertainment, wholesome entertainment.” Our youth of today have seen more, they’ve experienced more of the ugliness of society and of sex that it has become a secret burden to many of them. Go around to little kids and talk to them today. They are stripped away of the joy of their innocence and their childhood. This world has never been a safe place for kids in the first place. And it’s becoming less all the time. And I also believe that those of us that are parents and grandparents have been so desensitized by what we’ve seen, sometimes we’ve lowered our standards when it comes to standing up and calling these things out. 

I had one email me and said that I hated drag queens. That’s a lie. I don’t hate anybody. I don’t hate anybody. I do hate sin because that’s the way I was raised. I hate things that I know is wrong in God’s eyes because that’s the way I was raised, and I believe the Bible. But I don’t hate any drag queens, nor would I hate anybody, period. 

Under Arkansas law, state law generally prohibits adult businesses near places where children commonly are present. Arkansas law does not clearly prohibit adult performances on public property. Arkansas law does not clearly prohibit adult performances from being conducted where children might see them. So you see the ambiguity and what this bill does? This takes away that ambiguity. It clarifies it. And current law defines what adult-oriented businesses do. This bill simply adds drag queen performances to that list of businesses. It defines an adult-oriented business to include a drag performance. This bill would prohibit adult-oriented businesses on public property. It also prohibits an adult-oriented business or activity from being conducted in view of minors. It clarifies that adult performances can not take place where children can see them. Have you ever wondered why drag queen performers always got to have kids around? I don’t think I’ve ever seen them want to go to a nursing home or assisted-living facility, Senator Flippo.

If you turn on page 2 of the bill, most of it is original language that’s in the code. There’s three things listed that have to be met before this bill would even affect anyone, the criteria in the three things. Line 1, line 5, line 8. Those have to be met before the bill affects anyone. So that’s a lot of leeway. A text the other day said, “Are you telling me we can’t have our women dressed like men at the fair programs?” There’s a word in this bill called ‘prurient.’ The last time I’ve seen a farmer at a fair who was in a womanless beauty pageant, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one jump off the stage or on the stage and exhibited prurient activity. So no, this would not cause that from happening. Nor would it stop a Shakespearean drama. There’s a lot of things being made up that this will not affect. That’s all scare tactics. So those things have to be met before this bill would even go into effect. I’m not going to spend any more time. I’ve had a bad sinus infection for the last three days. I had to go to the doctor yesterday. This bill is pretty self explanatory. I know there is going to be some come speak against it. And for the sakes of me, I don’t know how. I hope that you will ask yourself one question before you vote: Would God approve of this? Just ask yourself that one question. I’d appreciate a good vote.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thank you, Senator Stubblefield. You’ve now heard Senator Stubblefield explain his bill. Are there any questions? There will be time for speaking against and for. Any questions for Senator Stubblefield? And again, this is a time for questions. We will have time to speak against the bill as well as for. Senator Flowers, you’re recognized for a question.


Sen Flowers: Thank you. And thank you for taking my question, Senator Stubblefield. Now, you bring God up into this and that concerns me. And I watched the debate in City County Local last Thursday by way of the internet. And really what concerns me-


Sen Stubblefield: Senator Flowers, I apologize, but I’m having trouble hearing you.


Sen Flowers: Okay. I’m sorry. I got this thing on. I was trying to get down there. Maybe I need to turn this off. Well, what I said was, I watched the debate in City County Local last Thursday and I was concerned. You brought up God here today. I’m a God-fearing person. In the committee, you identified yourself as a Christian. You cited scripture in the Bible from Deuteronomy, 25th verse. I guess you know that’s part of the Torah, the Old Testament, Judaic law. And as Christians, we look more to the New Testament. And that concerns me more about this bill because the New Testament preaches love of all regardless. What concerns me about this? It appears to me, you’re trying to put a target on people’s backs that are not, according to you, normal. People have been cross-dressing for centuries. It happened in Europe. They powdered their faces, made them whiter, put on rouge, wore wigs. Even our founding fathers did that. Do you agree with that? Do you believe that Christians believe in the New Testament?


Sen Stubblefield: Have you read Romans 1, Senator Flowers?


Sen Flowers: Do you believe– I’m asking the question.


Sen Stubblefield: Romans 1 is in the New Testament.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Senator Stubblefield, if you’ll hold off a minute. Senator Flowers, do you have a specific question?


Sen Flowers: I asked a specific question.


Lt Gov Rutledge: About the bill at hand.


Sen Stubblefield: What is your question, Senator?


Lt Gov Rutledge: What is the question about the bill that Senator has proposed?


Sen Flowers: My problem is seeing how he relates this to God, and this is sin. When you start citing the Bible and stuff, we’re going to all have different opinions about this. And for that community of the LGBTQ or whoever decides to cross-dress, put on a wig, wear clothing that is not identical to what you were born as a male or whatever– I mean, I don’t understand the purpose of this because we already have laws that prevent lewd, lascivious behavior. So what is your point other than to get national media attention?


Sen Stubblefield: I’m not looking for national media attention, Senator Flowers.


Sen Flowers: Well, would you agree that the–


Sen Stubblefield: Let me first clarify your first question. You talked about the Torah and the Old Testament. Romans speaks more about this particular sin in the New Testament than the Torah did in the Old Testament. And as far as dressing, anyone can still put on a robe, they can dress. They can go anywhere they want to go.


Sen Flowers: But you’re targeting people–


Sen Stubblefield: No, I’m not targeting anyone.


Sen Flowers: Yes, you are. But I guess you’ve answered my question. So I’ll sit down and let somebody else ask.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thank you. Anyone else wish to ask a question? Seeing none, those who wish to speak in opposition? Senator Leding, you are recognized, followed by Senator Tucker.


Sen. Leding speaking against SB 43

Sen Leding: Thank you, Madam President. I feel the first measure of every piece of legislation should be how many people does this help and who does it hurt? And I don’t think this bill is going to help anybody, but I do know it’s going to hurt people. And I know that’s not our colleague’s intent. I believe he is sincere when he says he wants to protect kids. Everybody in this room wants to protect kids, but I don’t believe this bill does that. Even if you do think drag performances are anything other than fun and entertaining– and I hope everybody in here has had the privilege of being at one– how many kids do we think, in Arkansas, are unintentionally 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 we’re number two in child food insecurity. We’re 5th in child mortality. We’re 7th in child death by firearms. And we’re 16th in teen suicide. Where do we think we rank in the number of children who have seen a drag show?


Our daughter has seen one. My wife and I, both Christians, took our daughter to one at The Momentary in Bentonville. She had a great time. The room was full of families. All anybody saw were people who had clearly put a lot of work and time and expense into performing for people. It was loud music. It was dancing. All anybody experienced was the joy of watching people do what they love in a room full of people who support them. And maybe loud music and dancing is not your thing. I’m an introvert who likes a quiet room all to myself. But I really can’t say that this bill is going to do anything to protect kids. It will hurt kids, particularly kids who struggle to feel welcome and safe and accepted and as though they belong in Arkansas. And they do belong in Arkansas. Regardless of who they love, how they identify, or what they wear, they have every much right to feel welcome and safe and accepted and loved as the rest of us. And I can’t imagine how they feel when they see their legislature demonize their community and make them feel as though they are somehow a threat to their peers just by being who they are. So who does this help? Who does it hurt? It’s going to hurt a lot of people, including kids. And any one of us who wants to improve kids’ lives in Arkansas in a meaningful way, there is a long list of real issues. I will sit down with any of you today to see what we can do about them. But I would ask you to vote against this bill. Thank you.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thank you, Senator Leding. Anyone wish to speak in favor? Senator Dees, you are recognized.


Sen. Dees speaking for SB 43

Sen Dees: Thank you, members. I am in favor of this bill. I’m in favor of this bill for a few reasons, many of which we’ve kind of already talked about today. But I’m going to bring another perspective as a father of young children, with three kids of my own. And I am compelled to vote for this and to encourage others to support this as well, because we are in a battleground. Let me tell you something about some of the emails I’ve gotten on this bill, some things about some of the statistics that Senator Leding mentioned, that we have so many areas that we need to be focusing on. Why are we focusing on this area? And to some point, that is correct. We are behind in our education goals and our prison reform goals. But my response is, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. And I would also say that we have an issue that is a cultural battleground right now, and our children are at the forefront of that. And so for myself, and I know for many of you others, that this is very important for us to take seriously. I believe– when I see drag queen story hours, when I see drag queen performances nationally or in our area, I think about what do I want my children exposed to? What are the things that I want to be encouraging them to be a part of? And I think what is pure, what is holy, what is noble, what is aspiring? And I don’t push them into those areas. And so for me, I think this gives the correct categorization for these activities. It still gives the rights and privileges for people to be involved with whatever they’d like to be involved in. But I believe we are at a cultural standpoint of a line in the sand and a battleground for our families and our kids, and so that’s why I’m urging you to vote for this. Thank you.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thank you, Senator. To speak in opposition, Senator Clarke Tucker, you are recognized.


Sen. Tucker speaking against SB 43

Sen Tucker: Thank you, Madam President. Colleagues, two weeks ago today, as a matter of fact, we had a new governor sworn in. I’m sure you all remember. We went down to the House Chamber for a joint address. And we happened to stand at least two or three times during the course of her address, right? No, it was more like 25 or 30. I don’t know, I lost count. Believe it or not, there were a number of things that Governor Sanders said that I was happy to stand for and I applauded. There were a few things I wasn’t as excited to stand for, and that’s okay. That’s part of democracy. But one of the things she said– and I’m paraphrasing, but one of the things she said that I jumped out of my seat to applaud was, “If you send me a bill that grows government at the expense of freedom, I will veto it.” Now, a few of my colleagues gave me a little bit of a sarcastic hard time about standing. And I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but I probably gave a sarcastic response. But the truth is, I was happy to stand and applaud because I’m not convinced that this legislature actually stands for limited government.


And let me explain what I mean. When it comes to our lives and our people’s lives, I believe wholeheartedly that this legislature stands for limited government. But when it comes to other people’s lives, I believe this legislature is for big government to control those lives. And that’s not unique to the 94th General Assembly. That happened in General Assemblies 1 through 93 as far as I can tell. I know for certain in the last few. And over the course of our history, we’ve had bills come through here that targeted black Arkansans or other racial minorities or tried to control the lives of women. In recent years, we’ve had bills, and I’m sure we’ll have in this session already on file, that try to control the conduct of businesses that we disagree with. When I first came to the House, there were bills trying to control the lives of gay and lesbian Arkansans. And in recent years, that focus has been more directly on transgender Arkansans, the most vulnerable people in our state. 


Now, my question for this body is, when are we going to learn from our history? We’ve been trying to control other people’s lives for almost 200 years now. And where has it gotten us? As Senator Leding mentioned, we rank near the bottom in a lot of categories, more than he mentioned. 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 sent us down here to get better laws than this to serve them. 

The truth is that this bill is not about governing. It’s about bullying. And if you don’t believe me or agree, all you have to do is look at the language in the bill. Now, if this bill was about protecting children from undue sexual influence, that is a conversation we could have. Absolutely, 100%. There’s a lot of activity out in the state that I think could arguably be undue sexual influence on children. If you go out to West Little Rock and go to Twin Peaks or you go to a Hooters, there is activity there that is 100% designed to appeal to the prurient interest, and there are kids running around everywhere. But that’s not in this bill. This bill focuses exclusively on people who dress differently than the gender they were designed at birth. And that’s how you know it targets them. And we talked, and Senator Flowers made reference to this. I pay attention to the entire Bible, the most attention to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And there Jesus says, The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and all the prophets.


I’ll transition from theology to a topic where I may have a little more credibility in here, and that is the law. Now, this bill is not only mean-spirited, it’s also unconstitutional. And what makes it mean-spirited is the very thing that makes it unconstitutional. Because it targets transgender Arkansans in the bill, that on its face violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution because we’re targeting people based specifically on their gender. Beyond the 14th Amendment, there are 1st Amendment concerns. There was another line of applause for the governor’s address two weeks ago for the 1st Amendment, the freedom of expression, freedom of speech. The Supreme Court of the United States worked for 20 years to define obscenity in pornography. These are very smart people with a whole lot of help. The word prurient is one piece of one factor of many factors that the Supreme Court uses. Now, we could have borrowed their language totally, but that’s not what’s in this bill. It takes one piece of one factor of the word prurient, and that word is not defined in this bill.


I know for certain that Senator Stubblefield and I have different definitions of the word prurient. Now, is a court going to use his definition, mine, or someone else’s? We don’t know because it’s not in the bill and because what’s prohibited is not fleshed out. So will it apply to a drag queen show? Probably. I’m sure that it will. Will it apply to a gay pride parade? Probably so, because the law is too vague to know for sure. Will it apply to Tootsie, which is appearing right now at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville and will be in Little Rock soon? Maybe. If I were their lawyer, I would be very nervous about the advice I would be giving them if this becomes law. But beyond that, this law also explicitly controls people’s conduct in their own private homes. There’s no exception for that. It’s included in the bill. 

So I’ll finish where I started by saying, this is a big government bill. It grows government at the expense of freedom, and we’re going to see over the course of this session how many bills we pass like that. I hope the answer is zero, starting with this one, which is why I’ll vote against it and ask you to do the same.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thanks, Senator. And now to speaking for, Senator Johnson, you’re recognized first– Senator Blake Johnson.


Sen. B Johnson speaking for SB 43 

Sen B Johnson: Members, it’s easy to remain silent and tolerant in what we’re facing in this society today. I don’t come down here very often. But today, I’m not going to be silent. And you can call me intolerant if you want to. But this bill does not just say you can’t dress like a woman. You can’t sexualize your production is what this bill is about. It’s not about having men dressed as women in a parade. It would include that if those actions are sexualized, not if they’re just merely dressed as the other gender. If they have pasties on and they’re walking down the street, that’s sexualization. There’s a difference. And our children do not need to be sexualized to the other genders. And this is common sense to me, and I’d appreciate a good vote.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thanks, Senator Johnson. To speak in opposition, recognize Senator Chesterfield.


Sen. Chesterfield speaking against SB 43

Sen Chesterfield: Thank you so much, Madam Chair. My experiences are not those of Senator Leding’s, nor is my legal sense that of Senator Clark. I’m just a country girl from Hope, Arkansas. And I say that when people make us uncomfortable, and they do on occasion, it’s no reason to have a law against them. We are talking all the time– there was a conference, there was a big rally about choice. Choice. Parents have the choice of where they take their children. Parents have a choice as to where they take their children. Nobody is making any parent take their children to see anything untoward. So why do we need the legislation? We are all about choice in this chamber, except a few of us. But we keep saying it, and yet parents aren’t making good choices as far as their kids are concerned. This isn’t about the people in drag. This is about the people taking their kids to see the drag. And if parents don’t want this to happen, guess what, if they don’t show up, this will go away. I’d appreciate a no vote.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thanks, Senator. To speak for, Senator Alan Clark, you are recognized.


Sen. Clark speaking for SB 43

Sen Clark: I’m going to remember all the scripture quoting as we go through the session, and I will remember how much we hate big government as we go through the session. I’m sure I’ll have chances to bring it up. Opponents would cause you to think that they’re pushing for a neutral playing ground. But I challenge you to ask for a Bible story hour at your local library. And I’m not saying that you should. I’m just saying, if you want neutrality, there will be howling and protests way beyond what you’ve heard here. This is not about neutral. This is about pushing a point of view. People are free to take their children to what they want to, not a government-owned, people-owned, venue. And on one hand, we say clearly, no religion, but on the other hand, we say– and I’m not asking you to agree with Senator Stubblefield. We all disagree on all kinds of things, including religion. But this idea that we can push over here and then be quiet on the other side is insane. And that’s all this is. Not this bill, but what this bill is preventing is pushing a point of view when we already said the other point of view can’t be pushed. It’s a public venue. There’s no place for it. If people want to do it, do it somewhere else.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thank you, Senator.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Senator Flowers, you are recognized to speak in opposition.


Sen. Flowers speaking against SB 43

Sen Flowers: Thank you, Governor. I have to catch my breath. Like I suggested and asked Senator Stubblefield, I really believe this is brought for attention. People have been different throughout history. Men have been putting on dresses, wearing makeup, making their faces whiter. The Europeans did that, little red rouge. They wear frilly little shirts and collars. That’s been going on a long time, 16, 17, 18th century. Our founding fathers wore wigs. Somebody mentioned Jefferson, he wore a wig. He wore little frilly collars. Judges did that. And the idea that this is about putting on pasties and sexualizing. I had to ask my seatmate, what was a pasty. I didn’t know what a pasty was. I’m learning a whole lot down here. Silly stuff. 


But I wanted to relate to you all a story. When I first started practicing law down in Houston, Texas, I didn’t know much about the gay community. And I lived in this apartment complex, and I had a neighbor, this old white guy. He was from Mississippi. He looks like a few of y’all in here. But he wanted me to get his divorce for him. And so as I talked to him about the circumstances and what drove him to wanting to divorce, I knew he didn’t live with a woman or his wife. And so I asked him, “Well, what’s up?” He said he got married a long time ago because that’s how he felt people thought he should do, get married. But he told me, “Stephanie, I knew for a long time that I was different and that I was gay.” And he talked to me about the history of homosexuality and how the pendulum swings. So throughout history, it’s been accepted, and then it swings back, and it’s done away with, and people have to run to the closet. 

Now, let me tell you something. Things that happen in the dark, they’re going to come to the light. So you can try all you want to protect your children. You cannot protect children. You have to explain things to children. And when you deny children the opportunity to see different things, things that you may not accept as good and wholesome for them, you have to explain that to them. To me, drag performance– I watch Medea, Tyler Perry, and I just laugh, laugh, laugh. A lot of these things that come on television, they’re funny to me. I actually thought the City County Local debate was funny. I really did. I mean, because the lady that came up or the he/she, whatever, I thought she was pretty good. But these are people. They’re human beings. Whether you’re straight or not, they’re human just like you all who think– I guess you’re human. You’re human. But I’ll end with this, that client of mine back then, he wanted to get married because he felt pressured. He felt like that was the thing to do. And he felt like he needed to have a child, so he had a child. He had a son, and he didn’t want to, but his wife had two more. And he said he didn’t want that. But he stayed married until those children were grown. He took care of them, but he separated from them. The children would come and see him. He had a good relationship, bonded with his children.


His children were okay. I met his children. The thing that struck me about John, he invited me over to his apartment one evening. And we had a couple of drinks and he said, “You want to see me in drag?” And he pulled out his wig, put his wig on, did his little makeup. And it was funny. It was really funny. But I felt like what he was saying to me was that he had been suppressed for a very long time, and that hurts a person to have to suppress who they are, hide, go in a closet. And for you all to accept the idea that this is just come up in the last couple of decades, that’s not true. There are places here in Arkansas that have hosted drag shows and events. Discovery Nightclub here in Little Rock, established in 1979. Eureka Live in Eureka Springs, pre-2007. Maxine’s Live, Hot Springs, open 1950. Hot Springs Central Theater, opened 1910. UA Fayetteville, opened 1871. University of Central Arkansas, opened 1907. Arkansas Tech, 1909. Fayetteville Public Library, opened 1916. And your school, Senator Chesterfield, Hendrix College, 1876. There have been many other productions since that time. I want to point out to you. This bill may be trying to attack drag performances, and it’s not just about pasties, because this says, you can’t sing if you’re in these clothes that are not appropriate to whatever you were born as. If you are a male born and pronounced a male at birth, and you’re in a woman’s clothes, you can not put those clothes on, and you can not sing, lip sync, dance, or otherwise perform before an audience of at least two persons for entertainment, whether performed for payment or not, that is intended to appeal to the prurient interest.


And I was reading this last week, and I was thinking about this bill, “Intended to appeal.” That is “intended to appeal” to the prurient interest. And I agree with my colleagues, Senator Tucker, and Senator Leding, Senator Chesterfield: Whose intent is it? If it’s the performers and the performer doesn’t intend that his dance or her dance or whatever he-she is, is not intended to appeal to the prurient or sexual interest of a person. I was thinking about that. A man standing on the corner, a woman walks in front of him, he thinks she looks sexy, is that prurient interest? She’s not intended. She has on regular kind of clothes, fully clothed, just like the performer at the City County Local. Fully clothed. How is that appealing to prurient interest? I don’t understand that. I don’t understand where that excitement comes from. I thought it was funny.


And I would think that you would think carefully. Because I’m telling you, in my practice of law for 40 years, children are going to be exposed to things when they are not around you, and you do your best to guide them, instruct them on what is. You want to keep an open relationship, communication with your child, so that they can talk to you about anything. And then you give them your viewpoint. But they’re going to grow up, and maybe as a young child, they may develop some sense that they are not what they were designated at birth. Do you want your chil, bullied, or do you want to stand up for your child? I’d stand up for mine if they had a problem. I think you ought to vote against this bill. Thank you.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thank you, Senator Flowers. Anyone who wishes to speak for or in opposition to? If not, Senator Stubblefield, you are recognized to close.


Sen Stubblefield closing for SB 43 

Sen Stubblefield: Well, first of all, colleagues with all due respect, Senator Chesterfield, parents can’t take their kids where they want to go. You can’t take them to a casino. You can’t take them to a strip joint, and there are several other places you can’t take kids. We have child endangerment laws on the books in Arkansas. Second, when I come in this chamber, when I come to this Capitol, I don’t leave my faith outside. It stays with me in here. In fact, most of my votes are based on what I believe and how I was raised as a Christian. This bill has to do with children, and unless there’s a child present, people are free to do what they want, as long as they don’t do it in front of children. So that’s basically what the bill does. I’d appreciate a good vote.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Thank you, Senator. Madam Secretary, would you call the roll?


Madam Secretary: Boyd?


Sen Boyd: Yes.


Madam Secretary: Bryant?  Bryant? Caldwell?


Madam Secretary: Chesterfield?


Sen Chesterfield: No.


Madam Secretary: Clark?


Sen Clark: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Crowell?


Sen Crowell: Yes.


Madam Secretary: Davis?


Sen Davis: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Dees?


Sen Dees: Yes.


Madam Secretary: Dismang?


Sen Dismang: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Dotson?


Sen Dotson: Aye.


Madam Secretary: English?


Sen English: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Flippo?


Sen Flippo: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Flowers?


Sen Flowers: No.


Madam Secretary: Gilmore?


Sen Gilmore: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Hammer?


Sen Hammer: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Hester?


Sen Hester: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Hickey?


Sen Hickey: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Hill?


Sen Hill: Yes.


Madam Secretary: Irvin.


Sen Irvin: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Blake Johnson?


Sen B Johnson: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Mark Johnson?


Sen M Johnson: Aye.


Madam Secretary: King?


Sen King: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Leding?


Sen Leding: No.


Madam Secretary: Love.


Sen Love: No.


Madam Secretary: McKee?


Sen McKee: Yes.


Madam Secretary: Murdock?


Sen Murdock: No.


Madam Secretary: Payton?


Sen Payton: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Penzo?


Sen Penzo: Yes.


Madam Secretary: Petty?


Sen Petty: Yes.


Madam Secretary: Rice?


Sen Rice: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Stone?


Sen Stone: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Stubblefield?


Sen Stubblefield: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Sullivan?


Sen Sullivan: Aye.


Madam Secretary: Tucker?


Sen Tucker: No.


Madam Secretary: Wallace?


Sen Wallace: Aye.

Vote on SB 43

Lt Gov Rutledge: Thank you, any senators– thank you, Senator Bryant, voting yes. Any other senators who have not voted wish to vote or wish to change their vote? Seeing none, cast up the ballot. By a vote of 29 yeas, 6 nays, it passes. Transmit to the House. At this time, I recognize Senator Hester.


Sen Hester: Madam President, I’d like to take a 10-minute recess and ask us all to go back to the quiet room. I want to visit with everybody to make sure we’re all on the same page on some appointments that we’ve been looking to confirm and not confirm. So if we can take a 10-minute recess, we’ll go to the back and hopefully, get on the same page and then come back out. Thanks.


Lt Gov Rutledge: Be in recess 10 minutes.