LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas Senate added more co-sponsors to a bill classifying drag performances as adult-oriented businesses.
Even before becoming law, the bill is making an impact on drag business in the Natural State. The mere announcement of the bill has caused a ripple leading to the Miss Gay America Pageant looking outside Little Rock for a venue.
CEO and executive producer of Mad Angel Entertainment Michael Dutzer said that the Miss Gay America Pageant has “roots” in Arkansas. Mad Angel Entertainment is the production company that owns and operates Miss Gay America.
The first Miss Gay America crowned in 1972, Norma Kristie, is a Little Rock business owner. In 1995, the pageant started using the Robinson Center as its stage, but Senate Bill 43 could end that soon.
If drag performance becomes classified as adult-oriented business, any show which could be deemed too sexual can’t happen anywhere a child under 18 could watch it. That has Michael Dutzer more than concerned.
“Now we’re looking at moving to another city because we don’t know what the future of the show would be here,” Dutzer said.
Dutzer said the Robinson Center had offered a contract to extend the use of its venue through 2026 but retracted it when Senate Bill 43 was introduced.
“They 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,’” Dutzer explained.
With 200 performers, the Miss Gay America production can’t be done in a bar or smaller venue. It is meant for the stage. Each year Miss Gay America brings about 2,000 travelers to the city who watch the event.
Dutzer told legislators his company spends approximately $70,000 to produce a show in Little Rock on top of the hotels rooms, airports, restaurants, attractions and stores visited during its duration.
The four-day pageant just crowned its 51st Miss Gay America in the Robinson Center over the past weekend.
“We bring a lot of people in for this, and we spend a lot of money here,” Dutzer said.
Sen. Dan Sullivan was the only legislator to ask the pageant owner a question. He asked if Dutzer or the LGBT community had sued a business that disagreed with their position. Dutzer said he hasn’t sued.
“I don’t know people personally, that have, but I’m sure there have been,” Dutzer added.
According to Stubblefield, the senate general assembly will vote on the bill Tuesday. If SB43 passes there, it will be voted on by the House committee and general house assembly before it goes to the governor’s desk.