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Arkansas drag performance bill one of several similar legislation from across U.S.

Senate Bill 43 regarding drag performance is nearly the same as bills found in seven other states— and the sponsors of the bill say it's necessary for Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — On Tuesday, Senate Bill 43, the bill that would put drag performances in the same category as strip clubs and porn shops, passed in the Arkansas Senate.

Republican Senator Gary Stubblefield of District 26 is the main sponsor of the legislation with co-sponsor Republican Representative Mary Bentley of District 73.

The bill didn't come without debate on the Senate floor.

"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," asked Democratic Senator Greg Leding of District 30.

"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 other genders," said Republican Senator Blake Johnson District 21.

The bill has now been sent to a House committee and has sparked a lot of debate in the Capitol as well as out in the community.

Though it turns out this goes far beyond Arkansas state lines.

Senate Bill 43 is nearly the same as bills found in seven other states. Nebraska, Arizona, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Montana are some of the states that have also been redefining drag performances and where they will be permitted.

The bills are all similar in that they're changing "sexually-oriented or adult-oriented business" to include drag performances— and where those performances can be held.

Some of those states include criminal penalties in the proposals.

In Arkansas, Senate Bill 43, if passed, would classify any drag performance "intended to appeal to the prurient interest" as an adult-oriented business and prohibit them from public property or where a child could see.

The sponsors and other legislators have said they are concerned about protecting children.

"This is about the kids," said Sen. Stubblefield. 

When we asked if there were instances in Arkansas of kids that had witnessed prurient acts based on drag Senator Stubblefield said, "I can't tell you."

Co-sponsor Representative Mary Bentley said her constituents told her a recent drag parade in Little Rock had "emergency contraceptions tossed into the crowd where children were present."

Though we couldn't confirm that happened. 

When asked about the nearly-identical bills in other states, Representative Bentley said she wrote the bill with the help of the Bureau of Legislative Research.

The word "prurient" has also been an issue as some legislators have said they are concerned that this is targeting the LGBTQ community specifically— and this could open the door for interpretation.

"If you go out to West Little Rock and go to Twin Peaks, or you go to a Hooters, there's 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," said Democratic Senator Clarke Tucker of District 14.

When we asked co-sponsor Rep. Bentley how prurient would be defined, her response was to look it up in the dictionary.

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