Judge suspended Tennessee law restricting drag performances a day before it was due to go into effect


A federal judge in Tennessee on Friday temporarily barred the state from enforcing ban on public drag showsa few hours before the new law takes effect.

US District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker issued an order to delay the enforcement of the measure for at least 14 days because he believes the ban is unconstitutional.

“At this point, the Court is of the opinion that the Statute is likely to be both vague and overbroad,” Parker wrote in the ruling, adding that the state still has not presented a “compelling public interest” as to why it should regulate drag racing. performances. so strict

The law is signed by a Republican governor. Bill Lee earlier this month – seeks to restrict “adult cabaret performances” on public property to shield them from the eyes of children, threatening misdemeanor to offenders and felony to repeat offenders. The ban specifically covers “male or female impersonators” who act in a way that is “harmful to minors”. It was supposed to go into effect April 1st.

The plaintiff, a Memphis-based theater troupe called Friends of George that includes drag queen performers, argued that the state sought to “explicitly restrict or prohibit speech and expression protected by the First Amendment based on their content, message, and message.” They argued that the law “targets the performers themselves, unduly restricting their expressive behavior not only within highly regulated adult venues, but virtually everywhere,” according to the judge’s ruling.

The state argues that the measure is not a complete ban and is only intended to stop sexually explicit performances in front of minors.

But Parker wrote that “Given the Defendants’ lack of a clear answer to the purpose of the Statute in the light of the state’s current obscenity laws, as well as the parties’ current papers on the Statute’s legislative history, the Court finds that the Plaintiff has made a plausible case for subjecting the Statute to strict control here.”

Plaintiff’s attorney, Melissa Stewart, celebrated the judge’s decision by saying that it “will protect the First Amendment rights of not only our clients, but the LGBTQ community in Tennessee as we move forward with the next steps in this lawsuit.”

CNN reached out to the governor’s office Friday night for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Lee’s approval of this measure is one of about a dozen such accounts making its way through GOP-led state legislatures, made Tennessee the first state to restrict drag shows in public this year.

Republicans say the plays expose children to inappropriate sexual themes and imagery, but advocates reject that claim, saying the proposed measures discriminate against the LGBT community and could violate First Amendment laws.

As drag culture becomes more popular, such shows, in which men often dress up as women in exaggerated make-up, sing, or entertain the audience, although some shows contain more obscene content, are sometimes the target of attacks, and LGBTQ advocates say the bills in question increase public anxiety.