BREAKING: Human Rights Campaign Condemns Arkansas Senate for Advancing Bill Restricting Drag Performances

by HRC Staff

Little Rock, Arkansas – Today, the Arkansas Senate advanced Senate Bill 43, an anti-LGBTQ+ bill that restricts drag performances. The bill would classify drag performances as “adult-oriented businesses'' and ban them from taking place on public property, as well as other locations where children and teenagers are present. The bill – which passed 29-6 – will now be transmitted to the Arkansas House for consideration.

The dangerous practice of banning LGBTQ+ events, spaces, and culture – including drag performances – is part of a large-scale attack on the LGBTQ+ community and an attempt to put LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender and non-binary people, back in the closet and labeled as dangerous.

Human Rights Campaign Arkansas State Director Eric Reece released the following statement in reaction to the Arkansas Senate passing SB 43:

“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. 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, the only voting bloc they are moving on these issues. The Human Rights Campaign strongly opposes Senate Bill 43 and urges the lawmakers behind them to stop attacking our community and instead focus on real issues impacting Arkansans.”

HRC Arkansas State Director Eric Reece

In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in state houses across the country introduced a record 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022. The majority of the discriminatory bills targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. Anti-transgender legislation took several forms, including bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity and bills to prevent transgender and non-binary youth from receiving life-saving, medically-necessary gender-affirming healthcare.

Nearly 1 in 5 of any type of hate crime is now motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias and the last two years have been the deadliest for transgender people, especially Black transgender women, we have seen since we began tracking fatal violence against the community. Reports of violence and intimidation against LGBTQ+ people have been making news across the country – with white nationalists targeting a Pride event in Idaho and Proud Boys crashing Drag Queen story hours at local libraries to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs. Finally, anti-LGBTQ+ stigma also drives alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, but LGBTQ+ youth who have at least one accepting adult in their life were 40% less likely to attempt suicide.

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