Tennessee Drag Ban Struck Down As Unconstitutional
U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker struck down a Tennessee law that banned drag shows in public or where children could watch them. He wrote that the law was “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad.”
The law was signed in March by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), which would make the state the first to explicitly ban public drag performances. If enacted, the law would punish first-time offenders with misdemeanors, repeat offenders with felony charges and multiple offenders with up to six years in prison.
Parker blocked the law on April 1, just hours before it was set to take effect; delaying the start date allowed him time to decide whether or not the ban was violating the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (R-Tennessee) expects to appeal the ruling “at the appropriate time,” he said in a statement.
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The nation has seen a surge in the regulation and banning of drag shows and activities this year. State lawmakers have introduced more than 400 anti-transgender bills since January on the grounds of protecting minors.
In anticipation of the 2024 election season, Republicans have been pushing for anti-LGBT bills to secure votes from their base.
LGBT rights groups celebrated the Tennessee ruling as a precedent that could guide future legal efforts on similar bills. The nonprofit organization, Friends of George, posted a tweet on Saturday morning that wrote, “WE WON!”
In a statement released by the nonprofit, they declared that “As the onslaught of hatred against the LGBTQ+ community continues around the country through the passage of anti-trans, homophobic, and draconian laws that seek to silence expression and identity, we will remain vocal and vigilant.”
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