Bad News

Miss Gay America Probably Might Have to Leave Arkansas Soon

Since its induction fifty years ago, the Miss Gay America Pageant has held several events in Little Rock, Arkansas, celebrating drag in a part of the country where it is needed most. But a recent homophobic bill is now forcing the group to seek a new location.

The Arkansas legislature has proposed Senate Bill 43, which would classify drag as adult-oriented entertainment if passed. This would make drag illegal in any venue where it can be seen by a minor, regardless of the content of the performance. Whether or not the bill actually passes, the mere discussion of it is enough to give venue owners cold feet.

Starting in 1995, the pageant has used Robinson Center in Little Rock as its venue. With over 200 performers, the pageant needs the big stage this concert hall provides. Recently, Mad Angel Entertainment, the company that puts on the pageant, was all set to renew their contract through 2026 when the Robinson Center pulled back.

“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 sign a contract and then push you away,’” Michael Dutzer, CEO and executive producer of Mad Angel Entertainment, told NBC affiliate KARK News

“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.

The news comes only days after the 51st Miss Gay America, Tatiyanna Voche, was crowned. The very first Miss Gay America, Little Rock business owner Norma Kristie, was crowned in 1972, barely three years after the Stonewall riots.

Dutzer spoke to legislators in opposition of the bill, laying out the economic benefits of the pageant. “We bring a lot of people in for this, and we spend a lot of money here,” he explained. Specifically, they spend over $70,000 just to put on the show and it draws over 2,000 out-of-towners, all of whom spend money on airfare, hotels, dining and shopping.

The Arkansas Senate will vote on SB43 Tuesday January 24. If it is passed, it will then head to the House committee and the General House Assembly before the governor can sign it into law.

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