Judge Blocks Anti-Drag Show Law In Tennessee

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A federal judge temporarily blocked an anti-drag show law in Tennessee hours before it was scheduled to go into effect Friday, after a group filed a lawsuit claiming the law was in violation of the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker issued a temporary injunction on a “first of its kind” law that effectively banned “adult-oriented performances” for minors within the state, The Associated Press (AP) reported.  The law, which was set to go into effect April 1, would charge first-time offenders with a misdemeanor and repeat offenders with felony charges.

“It simply puts age restrictions in place to ensure that children are not present at sexually explicit performances,” Republican state Sen. Jack Johnson stated of the bill he sponsored. (RELATED: Here Are The 14 States Moving To Prohibit Sexually Explicit Drag Shows For Minors)

After Johnson’s bill was signed into law by Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a lawsuit was filed against the state by Friends of George’s, an LGBTQ+ theater company in Memphis, The AP reported. In their initial complaint, the theatre company argued that the scope of the bill was inconsistent and too subjective in its wording.

“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 contends, according to The AP.

Parker sided with the theatre troupe stating that Tennessee lawmakers failed to “make a compelling argument as to why Tennessee needed the new law,” the outlet reported. Parker further found that the law was too vague in its specifications of venues where performances of an adult nature might be viewed by a minor.

“Does a citizen’s private residence count? How about a camping ground at a national park?” Parker reasoned, according to The AP.  “Ultimately, the Statute’s broad language clashes with the First Amendment’s tight constraints.” (RELATED: South Dakota Legislature Kills Bill That Would Have Barred Schools From Hosting Drag Shows)

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, who was also named in the theatre troupe’s lawsuit, seemingly welcomed the temporary injunction.

“There has been much concern and confusion about the law from the community,” Mulroy told The AP. “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,” he added.