Republican lawmakers in Arkansas forwarded legislation on Tuesday that designates drag shows as "adult-oriented businesses," a move meant to prevent minors from attending.
The measure also outlaws the performances "intended to appeal to the prurient interest" on public property and now heads to the state House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a massive 82-18 majority.
Arkansas state Sen. Gary Stubblefield, who introduced the bill earlier this month, argued during a hearing before the 29-6 vote that his legislation was drafted to protect children from sexually explicit content.
"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," the Republican said about drag queen story hours at local libraries.
Eric Reece, director of the Human Rights Campaign in Arkansas, condemned the move in an official statement, arguing Republican lawmakers were weaponizing the state legislature against LGBTQ+ individuals.
"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 insisted, adding "radical politicians" were "spreading propaganda."
It is the latest move in a multi-state effort by Republicans to clamp down on the practice. Oklahoma has already adopted a measure against drag queen story hours, with West Virginia floating several bills as well.
Jack Johnson, Tennessee's Republican Senate majority leader, introduced similar legislation to Arkansas in his state last year, telling ABC's WKRN-TV 2 at the time the bill was specifically designed not to be abused.
"I don't want to ban a theater company from doing a production of Mrs. Doubtfire in a public park," Johnson assured.
However, Republicans do "have an issue with men dressed as women simulating sex acts in public parks in front of kids."
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