Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday signed into law a bill placing restrictions on what it defines as adult-oriented performances, according to an email from her office.
In its original form, Senate Bill 43 by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, intended to include drag performances under the state's definition of adult-oriented businesses and defined drag performances as ones in which performers exhibit "a gender identity that is different from the performer's gender assigned at birth."
However, amendments stripped down the proposal, merely adding to the existing law prohibiting adult businesses in the proximity of minors. It now defines adult-oriented performances as ones in which a person appears in a state of nudity or purposefully exposes "a specific anatomical area" or "prosthetic genitalia or breasts."
The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 29-6 and was passed on to the governor's desk.
Late last month, Sanders backed the bill as an effective way to protect children from sexual content.
"I think we have to do everything -- I've been very clear and talked about this pretty extensively -- to protect children. I think that's what this bill does," Sanders said on Jan. 25, while the bill was working its way through the Legislature.
Opponents, however, viewed the bill as originally proposed as an attempt to classify all drag performances, whether they are adult in nature or not, as adult entertainment. Some suggested that the bill could also be used to stigmatize and even criminalize transgender people.
The bill initially would have criminalized anyone who presented aspects of a gender identity different than the gender assigned to them at birth, a post on the website of nonprofit Intransitive states.
That would have excluded trans-inclusive events on any public property, including libraries, the Capitol and the streets as well as prohibiting transgender children from performing at school events.
"I can't think of anything good that can come from taking children and putting them in front of a bunch of grown men dressed like women," Stubblefield told senators before a vote Jan. 24. "Morally we are going down a funnel."
Stubblefield said then that his bill would not apply to theatrical performances that feature cross-dressing actors such as Shakespearean dramas.
Information for this article was contributed by Will Langhorne of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette