Tennessee Set To Become First U.S. State To Ban Drag Shows

Posted February 24, 2023 by with 15 comments

It’s 2023, but it may as well be 1823 in Tennessee.

Led by bill sponsor Rep. Chris Todd (above), the Tennessee law bans “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to prurient interest” in public or anywhere a child is present, and is so (deliberately) vague, it would essentially apply to trans people, drag performers in a Pride parade, or anyone dressed in a manner not conforming to Tennessee Republicans’ standards. Via New Republic:

Tennessee lawmakers passed the country’s first ban on drag performances Thursday, part of an onslaught of bills restricting LGBTQ rights across the United States that could have much further-reaching consequences.

House Bill 9 is headed to Governor Bill Lee, who has said he will decide whether to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. If he does, the measure will go into effect on April 1, two months ahead of Pride Month.

When H.B. 9 was first introduced in November 2022, the ACLU of Tennessee noted that “dance, fashion, and music—essential components of a drag performance—are all protected by the First Amendment. Yet, these laws are written so broadly and vaguely that they would allow government officials to censor performers based on their own subjective viewpoints of what they deem appropriate on any given day.”

The bill’s vagueness could also affect Pride celebrations, which last for the month of June. Drag performers or trans people appearing in public could be charged with felonies simply for existing.

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