The Arkansas Senate advanced a bill on Tuesday that would designate drag shows as “adult-oriented businesses” to protect children and block minors from attending.
The legislation also proposes a ban on drag queen performances on public property in a move that would end Drag Queen Story Hour-like events at public libraries.
“I can’t think of anything good that can come from taking children and putting them in front of a bunch of grown men who are dressed like women,” said Republican state Sen. Gary Stubblefield, who introduced the legislation earlier this month.
The bill passed 29-6 along party lines in the Republican-controlled Senate. The proposal now moves to the Arkansas House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass under the 82-18 GOP majority.
Eric Reece, director of the Human Rights Campaign in Arkansas, condemned the legislation in a statement.
“Many drag performances – such as Drag Queen story hours at schools and libraries – are age appropriate for children and can teach important lessons like acceptance and openness,” Reece wrote.
“This is just another example of radical politicians in Arkansas spreading propaganda and creating more stigma, discrimination, and ultimately violence against transgender and non-binary people just to rile up extreme members of their base,” he added.
In addition to Arkansas, Republicans in Tennessee have proposed a similar drag queen ban that would prohibit minors from events and performances. The Volunteer State legislation also seeks to add drag performances to its list of adult-oriented businesses that would be unable to operate within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, or houses of worship.
The Tennessee bill would allow some exceptions, focusing specifically on performances that are sexual in nature, according to Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson.
Oklahoma state lawmakers are also pursuing a law against drag queen events involving minors that would fine offenders up to $20,000 and potentially jail those performing in front of children for up to two years.
West Virginia is also among the states reportedly considering similar bans.
The movement to enact anti-drag queen bills to prevent minors from attending such activities follows the growing popularity of Drag Queen Story Hour events held at libraries and schools across the nation. Past readings have included strong protests from parents and community members concerned over introducing children to sexualized content.
Actor Kirk Cameron recently added to the controversy after he proposed a values-based alternative to read his “As You Grow” children’s book at public libraries. He was reportedly turned down at many of the same public libraries that had previously held Drag Queen Story Hour events.
Cameron ultimately challenged what some describe as a double standard and secured readings in multiple library locations. Earlier this month, his publisher said nearly 1,000 people packed a Southern California library for Cameron’s event.
“All the forces of darkness are no match for moms and dads who are committed to God, and to their family, and to teaching their children,” Cameron told the crowd.