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Bill intended to shield children from adult-oriented performances passes state Senate panel

by Will Langhorne | February 21, 2023 at 12:30 p.m.
Sen. Gary Stubblefield speaks about a transgender bill in the Senate judiciary committee at the state Capitol in Little Rock on Feb. 13. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Tommy Metthe)

A state Senate panel on Tuesday endorsed a bill intended to shield children from "adult-oriented performances."

Senate Bill 43, by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, returned to the Committee on City, County, and Local Affairs after heavy amendments in the House. The bill, which originally aimed to regulate "drag performances," heads to the full Senate for further action.

After drawing crowds to earlier committee meetings in the House and Senate and sparking opposition from Democratic lawmakers on the floors of both chambers, Stubblefield's bill passed the Senate panel Tuesday with little fanfare. No one testified for or against the legislation.

While presenting his bill, Stubblefield said the amendments would expand protections for children while also making the legislation more resilient to potential court challenges.

During past meetings, opponents criticized the amended bill for having confusing language and raised concerns about how it could limit the First Amendment rights of performers.

The bill defines an "adult-oriented performance" as a show "intended to appeal to the prurient interest and that features a person who appears in a state of nudity or is semi-nude; the purposeful exposure, whether complete or partial, of a specific anatomical area, or prosthetic genitalia or breasts; or a specific sexual activity."

The legislation would bar an "adult-oriented performance" from taking place on public property, admitting minors or being "funded in whole or in part with public funds."


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