Arkansas drag performance bill opinions see very different sides to issue

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Lawmakers trying to pass a bill that would classify drag performances as adult-oriented businesses have repeatedly said they are doing it to protect children.

If passed, Senate Bill 43 would prevent drag performances from anywhere someone under 18 could view them. The legislation is sponsored by Arkansas Sen. Gary Stubblefield and Rep. Mary Bentley.

Senator Gary Stubblefield said he polled 50 parents who are his constituents to ask if they would take their child to a drag show, and each one said no. He didn’t ask seven-year-old Zaidyn Muniz or her mother.

Zaidyn shares the interest most girls her age do. One of her favorites is dancing and singing. After the young girl saw two boys dancing on TikTok transform into dressing like girls in a flash she asked if there was somewhere she could see it in person.

Her mother happily found a show in Little Rock, and she met Roxxie Starrlite.

“It kind of makes me sad when I can’t go, like right now,” Zaidyn said in an interview Friday. Zaidyn’s mother wanted to make sure her daughter spoke for herself and did not interview.

“If it makes them happy. What’s wrong with that?” asked Roxxie Starrlite.

Starrlite has been performing in Arkansas for 15 years. She says it began when she was 19 years old.

“No self-esteem. Didn’t like how I looked. Didn’t like how I felt. The first entertainer I saw perform, I noticed the confidence and the just over the top attitude that these performers had, and I knew I wanted that,” Starrlite said.

“I don’t believe we can substitute our emotions and our feelings for what God says is wrong,” Gary Stubblefield (R), State Senator for District 26 and Senate Bill 43 told our station.

Stubblefield said his bill that would outlaw drag performances in front of children did come from conversations with his constituents but it was partly based on what the Bible says.

“In Deuteronomy 22:5 God says any man that dresses like a woman, any woman that dresses like a man is an abomination. I believe that,” Stubblefield stated.

When asked if legislating the Bible is part of his responsibility as a leader of the state, Stubblefield said, “I see that as my responsibility to protect children and protect anyone else.”

Roxxie Starrlite said much of what she does is to protect insecure kids, adding she often sees a younger version of herself in them.

“I’m there to protect these kids. There’s so much bullying going on in the world still. There’s so much hatred toward people for being different, and I just don’t understand what they are trying to protect these kids from,” Starrlite said.

“All I’m doing is playing dress up and performing in a play just in a different. In my own way to be who I am and to be myself,” she added.

Stubblefield quoted additional scripture, specifically Luke 17:1-2 which says “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. (ESV)”

“We have a lot of children that are so confused right now, and I don’t think they need to be exposed to this, to men who are dressed up like women, especially the younger, especially the very young,” Stubblefield argued.

Zaidyn and her family think exposure leads to understanding and would say this to those who think otherwise.

“I would tell them it’s okay. You don’t have to. It’s just boys dressed up like girls. I do like to watch them, but I don’t want to do it,” Zaidyn said.

According to  Stubblefield, discussion of the bill is not on the agenda for the Senate Subcommittee on City, County, and Local Affairs next week. It could be heard as early as the next Thursday he added.