ACLU-TN Reaction to Law Targeting Drag Shows

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March 2, 2023

Lindsay Kee, 615-320-7142

NASHVILLE – Governor Bill Lee has signed a law that would prohibit entertainers from performing on public property, or where their performance could be viewed by a minor, if the performance is “harmful to minors.”

While some lawmakers have expressed their intent to ban all drag shows in Tennessee, the legal definition for “harmful to minors” in Tennessee is very narrow and only covers extreme sexual or violent content with no artistic value. Drag performances do not inherently fall into this category and are protected by the First Amendment.

Stella Yarbrough, ACLU of Tennessee legal director, had this reaction:

“We are disappointed that Governor Lee chose to sign a bill that politicians intended to censor drag performances. However, I want to be abundantly clear: the law that was just signed does not make it illegal to perform in drag in Tennessee. The law bans obscene performances, and drag performances are not inherently obscene.

However, we are concerned that government officials could easily abuse this law to censor people based on their own subjective viewpoints of what they deem appropriate, chilling protected free speech and sending a message to LGBTQ Tennesseans that they are not welcome in our state.

We will challenge enforcement of this law if it is used to punish a drag performer or shut down a family-friendly LGBTQ event.”

Any performers, event organizers or business owners being negatively affected by this anti-drag law should contact the ACLU of Tennessee at:

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2023-03-02T17:04:29-06:00 March 2nd, 2023|Categories: General News, Press Releases|