Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a “first-of-its-kind” bill into law Thursday, banning drag shows for children.
The law, which is set to go into effect on April 1, will effectively ban “adult cabaret entertainment” in any and all public locations where it can be viewed by minors, NBC News reported The law’s definition of “adult cabaret entertainment” includes “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators or similar entertainers,” the bill stated.
Tennessee enacts nation’s first law restricting drag performances in public or in front of children. https://t.co/yXdSfXUGWi
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 3, 2023
Opponents of the bill argue it is “too subjective,” voicing concerns that it would unfairly target transgender people.
“This would basically kind of legalize like, ‘Oh, I see … someone that I don’t think is a woman dressed as a woman right now, and so I can call the cops. It’s … this subtle and sinister way to further criminalize just being trans,” Henry Seaton of the ACLU of Tennessee told WPLN news.
Others point to a resurfaced 1977 yearbook photo of Lee dressed as a cheerleader during a high school powderpuff football game, accusing the governor of hypocrisy.
“Apparently when straight men dress up badly in drag, that’s OK. But when gay and queer and trans people do it, that’s not OK,” Drag performer Hella Skeleton told “This is Nashville” on WPLN.
When asked about the photo, Lee called the claims “ridiculous,” arguing the two couldn’t be compared.
“What a ridiculous, ridiculous question that is,” Lee told Fox 17 News. “Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious subject.”
“The bill specifically protects children from obscene, sexualized entertainment, and any attempt to conflate this serious issue with lighthearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families,” a spokesman for Lee added, according to the Daily Beast.
Republican state Sen. Jack Johnson, who sponsored the bill, echoed this sentiment, telling CNN the bill “is not targeting any group of people. It does not ban drag shows in public. It simply puts age restrictions in place to ensure that children are not present at sexually explicit performances.”
“The bill gives confidence to parents that they can take their kids to a public or private show and will not be blindsided by a sexualized performance,” Johnson tweeted after the bill passed. (RELATED: DeSantis Admin Threatens Venue’s License For Hosting ‘Explicit’ Drag Show That Minors Could Attend)
According to the bill, first-time offenders would receive a misdemeanor charge while subsequent offenses would result in felony charges.