A federal judge in Tennessee has ruled the state’s pioneering law aimed at severely restricting drag shows unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, has ruled Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation law, designed to place strict limits on drag shows, as unconstitutional. He stated that the law was both “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” and encouraged “discriminatory enforcement”.
The law would have prohibited adult cabaret performances from public spaces or anywhere where minors could be present. Violations would have resulted in charges of a misdemeanor or a felony for repeat offenses.
Parker used the hypothetical example of a female performer impersonating Elvis Presley who could be at risk of punishment under the drag law as a “male impersonator.”
Friends of George’s, a Memphis-based LGBTQ+ theater company, filed a complaint in March, arguing the law would negatively affect them as they produce “drag-centric performances, comedy sketches, and plays” without age restrictions.
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The group hailed the judge’s ruling as a triumph over hate and a confirmation of their First Amendment rights as artists. On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, a Republican and one of the law’s main sponsors, expressed disappointment with the ruling, framing it as a victory for those who support exposing children to sexual entertainment.
Tennessee’s anti-drag law was part of a suite of measures seen as targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Earlier this year, the state’s Governor, Bill Lee, signed a GOP-backed legislation banning most gender-affirming care, a move which is also being legally challenged.
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