A new bill introduced by the Arkansas Senate aims to classify drag performances as "adult-oriented businesses," and the drag community in the Natural State is in the wake of the ripple effect.
Little Rock, Arkansas has played host to the Miss Gay America Pageant multiple times since its founding in 1972, but Senate Bill 43 has the team behind the pageant eying a new location -- especially if the bill is signed into law.
Michael Dutzer, CEO and executive producer of Mad Angel Entertainment (the company that produces the pageant), told NBC affiliate KARK News that the Miss Gay America Pageant had "roots" in Arkansas. Norma Kristie, a Little Rock business owner, took the first crown back in 1973, and the pageant itself has been held in Little Rock's Robinson Center numerous times over the years.
If Senate Bill 43 passes, however, drag performances will be classified as adult-oriented business, which means any show deemed "too sexual" can't happen anywhere someone under 18 can see it. Dutzer said the Robinson Center had offered an extended contract through 2026, but the introduction of the bill had him retract his acceptance.
"Now we're looking at moving to another city because we don't know what the future of the show would be here," he said. "They [the Robinson Center] were like, 'We don't know what this bill is going to do. We don't know if you should sign because we don't want to like sign a contract and then push you away.'"
The Miss Gay America Pageant draws around 2,000 travelers to the event and the production consists of over 200 performers. Mad Angel Entertainment spends nearly $70,000 on show production, and the 51st Miss Gay America was just crowned this past weekend.
The senate general assembly is set to vote on the bill on Tuesday, January 24. If it passes, it will move through the House committee and the General House Assembly before landing on the governor's desk for a final decision.
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