A federal judge in Tennessee, appointed by former President Donald Trump, has declared the state’s law that sought to heavily restrict drag shows as unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker ruled that the law was “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad,” warning against its potential for discriminatory enforcement.
The law aimed to prohibit adult cabaret performances in public spaces or any venues where minors could be present. Violations of the law would have resulted in misdemeanor or felony charges for repeat offenses. However, Judge Parker argued that the law’s language was so broad that even a female performer impersonating Elvis Presley could potentially be punished as a “male impersonator.”
In March, Friends of George’s, an LGBTQ+ theater company based in Memphis, filed a complaint against the law, arguing that it would harm their productions, which include drag-centric performances, comedy sketches, and plays without age restrictions. The group celebrated the judge’s ruling as a victory against discrimination and a recognition of their First Amendment rights as artists.
However, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, a Republican and one of the law’s sponsors, expressed disappointment with the decision, framing it as a win for those advocating for exposing children to sexual entertainment.
This anti-drag law was part of a series of measures seen as targeting the LGBTQ+ community in Tennessee. Earlier this year, Governor Bill Lee signed legislation backed by the GOP that banned most gender-affirming care, another move currently facing legal challenges.