By Daniel Stefanski |
Arizona Legislative Republicans and Democrats are continuing their legendary clashes over a bill that would severely punish unlawful exposures to minors.
SB 1698, sponsored by Senator Justine Wadsack, “establishes unlawful exposure to an adult oriented performance or business as a class 4 felony offense punishable as a dangerous crime against children and requires a person convicted of the offense to register as a sex offender,” according to the overview provided by the Arizona House of Representatives.
In a video explanation of the genesis behind this bill’s introduction, Senator Wadsack said she “felt a conviction to create this bill after coming across events like the drag queen story hours, which involve sexual adult performance in sexually explicit attire, reading books to children – often elementary school age.”
In February, SB 1698 passed both the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, before it was approved by the entire Senate chamber in early March by a 16-14 party-line vote. Before the vote on the Senate floor, Senator Wadsack inserted a five-part floor amendment, which (among other things) removed the definition of “drag show” from the original bill.
After the final Senate action on the bill, it was transmitted to the Arizona House of Representatives, where it was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
This week, the House Judiciary Committee considered the bill, and, after vigorous debate, passed it by a vote of 5-3. All Republicans voted to affirm the legislation, and Democrats voted to oppose. House Democrats labeled SB 1698 as one of the chamber’s “hateful bills,” linking the policy proposed by Wadsack to a hypothetical outcome that would see the end of “school-play versions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.”
House Judiciary Committee Republicans made their voices heard during this hearing, pushing back against individuals speaking out against the bill and their colleagues from across the aisle. Representative Alexander Kolodin said, “All this bill does is prohibit parents from taking their kids to a sex show or a drag show. It’s common sense. How could you be against that?”
Representative Cory McGarr stated that “there is a growing trend that for some reason we are pushing hyper-sexual material on children. But to oppose this bill on the merit, to me, seems completely insane.”
Countering the naysayers of the bill, the bill sponsor, Senator Wadsack, previously clarified what her legislation does or does not do: “This bill does not target entertainers who are performing for adults. This bill also deals with individuals providing adult entertainment to minors, which is absolutely what crosses the line.”
Representatives from the National Association of Social Workers, Children’s Action alliance, American Civil Liberties Union of AZ, AZ Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona registered in opposition to the bill during the legislative process.
SB 1698 is expected to make its way to the House floor for a vote in the near future.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.