What you need to know about the ‘Drag’ bill


SB 43 is a drag show bill that attempts to limit where drag performances can be held. As written now the bill, would ban drag shows in public spaces or anywhere that someone under age 18 could view them. 


It adds “drag performance” to a list of spaces considered adult-oriented businesses, including adult bookstores or video stores, adult cabarets, adult live entertainment establishments, adult theaters, massage establishments that offers adult services, escort agencies, or nude model studios. New language in the bill would specify that none of these adult-oriented businesses could be located on public property or “where a minor can view what the adult-oriented business is otherwise offering.”


Who would be held harmful, if anyone, under this bill isn’t clear. Unlike the other businesses included in that list, which are clearly venues or business operations, a drag performance itself is not a business. It’s an event.


The definition of a drag performance is broad. It defines drag performances as where someone exhibits a gender identity different than that assigned at birth by wearing clothing, makeup or other accessories typically worn by members of the opposite sex. The performer must be lip syncing or singing or dancing for at least 2 people. And it has to be intended to appeal to the “prurient interest.” 


Prurient interest is not defined in Arkansas Code, though it is relied on heavily in other definitions. In its kindest interpretation, it is something that incites sexual thoughts. In less kind definitions, it’s associated with shameful or morbid interests in sex. This bill leaves it up to the state and the courts to decide what someone’s intentions are for dancing. 


What this bill wouldn’t do is ban drag book readings at local libraries or local schools. It doesn’t ban drag around children or in public spaces. It bans drag along with singing / dancing that the state deems is meant to arouse sexual interest. 


It’s currently set for a hearing today after the Senate adjourns in the Senate City, County, and Local Affairs Committee.