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Tennessee Anti-Drag Law Voided As 'Vague' And 'Overbroad'

Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation law designed to place strict limits on drag shows was ruled unconstitutional by federal judge Thomas Parker. The law is both “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” and encouraged “discriminatory enforcement,” Parker said. "There is no question that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. But there is a difference between material that is ‘obscene’ in the vernacular, and material that is ‘obscene’ under the law.” Parker said, reports the Associated Press. The law would have banned adult cabaret performances from public property or anywhere minors might be present. Performers risked being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for a repeat offense.


Parker used the example of a female performer in an Elvis Presley costume and mimicking the iconic musician who could risk punishment because she would be considered a “male impersonator.” Friends of George’s, a Memphis-based LGBTQ+ theater company, challenged the law, saying the law would harm hem because they produce “drag-centric performances, comedy sketches, and plays” with no age restrictions. The group called the ruling "a triumph over hate ... our collective success relies upon everyone speaking out and taking a stand against bigotry.” Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, a sponsor of the law, said the decision was a "victory for those who support exposing children to sexual entertainment." The word “drag” doesn’t appear in the statute. Lawmakers changed the state’s definition of adult cabaret to mean “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.”

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