Tennessee drag ban law: Judge temporarily blocks law

A federal judge in Tennessee on Friday temporarily halted the state’s new law that criminalizes some drag performances.

Judge Thomas Parker cited constitutional protections of freedom of speech in issuing a temporary restraining order.

Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed the novel bill into law March 2. It was set to effect Saturday.

The first-of-its-kind law bans “adult cabaret entertainment” on public property or in locations where it could be viewed by a minor.

The law has sometimes been referred to as a drag ban.

Friends of George’s, Inc., which is an LGBTQ theater company based in Memphis, sued over the law and called it unconstitutional.

“This law threatens to force a theatre troupe into a nightclub, because Tennessee legislators believe they have the right to make their own opinions about drag into law,” the theater group argues in its complaint. “Plaintiff’s other option is to proceed as planned, knowing that the Friends of George’s drag performers could face criminal — even felony — charges.”

Supporters say the law safeguards children against exposure to inappropriate entertainment.

In the ruling, the judge cited constitutionally protected freedom of speech.

“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution,” Parker wrote.

“The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark,” he wrote.

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