A federal judge temporarily blocked Tennessee’s controversial law banning drag shows Friday, just hours before it was scheduled to take effect.
The first-of-its-kind legislation is too vague and broad and the state didn’t provide a good reason for why it would benefit Tennessee, US District Judge Thomas Parker wrote in his ruling.
Parker handed down the temporary injunction after listening to Memphis-based Friends of George’s — an LGBTQ+ theater company that filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the ban — argue against Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy and the state of Tennessee.
The group argued the statute violates the First Amendment, an opinion Parker sided with.
The bill itself — which sparked harsh criticism from celebrities like Madonna and big-name drag queens — doesn’t mention the word “drag” anywhere.
The Tennessee law also classified “male or female impersonators” as a form of adult cabaret, akin to strippers and topless, go-go and exotic dancers. The legislation also redefines adult cabaret to mean “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.”
“The law prohibits a drag performer wearing a crop top and mini skirt from dancing where minors might see it, but does not prohibit a Tennessee Titans cheerleader wearing an identical outfit from performing the exact same dance in front of children,” the initial complaint filed by Friends of George’s states.
The law could prohibit adult cabaret performances from any place where minors would be present, though the legislation doesn’t specify what types of public or private venues are covered by the language.
“Does a citizen’s private residence count? How about a camping ground at a national park?” Parker wrote. “Ultimately, the Statute’s broad language clashes with the First Amendment’s tight constraints.”
Those who break the law would face misdemeanor charges, up to a $2,500 fine and/or up to one year in jail.
Additional offenses would be felonies that could bring six months in jail.
Before Parker came down with his decision, DA Mulroy said he wouldn’t object to a temporary restraining order because it would give lawmakers ample opportunity to strengthen the broad language.
“There has been much concern and confusion about the law from the community,” Mulroy said.
“This will allow the court to clarify the scope, application, and constitutionality of the statute. It’s important to understand the scope of this law so that it doesn’t have a harmful effect on constitutionally protected expression.”
Activists have argued that drag shows are not dangerous for young children and that parents who don’t want their kids to witness potentially sultry dancing should not bring them to shows.
The temporary block comes just two days after a North Carolina drag show sparked international outrage.
In a viral video, a drag queen could be seen straddling and giving a lap dance to a young girl during a performance at a community college where students as young as 14 were invited to attend.
With Post wires
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