Tennessee’s anti-drag law temporarily blocked

Tennessee anti-drag law blocked by judge

A federal judge in Tennessee has blocked the state’s anti-drag law from going into effect for 14 days. Photo: United States District Court, Western District of Tennessee.

A federal judge in Tennessee has blocked the state’s anti-drag law from going into effect for now.

The law, which restricts drag performances, was signed into law last month by Republican Gov. Bill Lee. It passed along with a bill banning gender-affirming care for youth.

Those found in violation of the law, which bans “adult cabaret entertainment” with “male or female impersonators,” could face felony charges on repeat offenses.

It bans drag performances from public property or venues that “could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.”

Memphis-based nonprofit Friends of George’s, a theater company that produces original, drag-centric performances, sued the state earlier this week over the anti-drag law.

In their suit, the group said the law “explicitly (restricts or chills) speech and expression protected by the First Amendment based on its content, its message, and its messenger.”

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, handed down a 14-day temporary restraining order only hours before the law was to go into effect.

In his order, Parker explained that the state hadn’t provided “a clear answer to the Statute’s purpose considering current state obscenity laws, along with the Parties’ present filings on the Statute’s legislative history, the Court finds that Plaintiff has made a likely case for subjecting the Statute to strict scrutiny here.”

He noted that the restrictions placed on the theater were not “trifling issues for a theater company — certainly not in the free, civil society we hold our country to be.”

A hearing is set a day before Friends of George’s next show scheduled for April 14.

“We won because this is a bad law,” Mark Campbell, president of the board of directors of Friends of George’s, said in a release. “We look forward to our day in court where the rights for all Tennesseans will be affirmed.”

“We are committed to landing a victory against hate,” said Goldie Dee Collins, a board member of the group and a drag queen. “We stand in firm solidarity with all drag performers, the greater LBGTQIA+ community, and countless allies in the fight for Justice, self-expression, and pursuit of happiness.”

The anti-drag law is one of approximately 12 similar bills proposed in Republican-led state legislatures across the country.

Tennessee is the first state to have such a measure signed into law.

This article originally appeared on Advocate.com, and is shared here as part of an LGBTQ+ community exchange between Q Voice News and Equal Pride.

About the author

Alex Cooper

Share This

Share this post with your friends!