White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre blasts Tennessee’s ‘unacceptable’ drag law

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wears a green outfit as she gestures with her hand while talking about Tennessee's anti-drag law

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre slammed Tennessee’s “unacceptable” anti-drag law for not only being “unnecessary” but also outright “dangerous”. 

The first-of-its-kind legislation, which Tennessee governor Bill Lee signed into law Thursday (2 March), bans drag and vaguely defined “adult cabaret” performances on both public property as well as in any location that “could be viewed by a person who is not an adult”. 

The law would punish first-time offenders with misdemeanours, and subsequent offences would be classified as a felony, carrying a potential sentence of six years in prison

In a press briefing Friday (3 March), Jean-Pierre blasted the new law. She questioned why elected officials chose to focus on legislating against drag when there are more pressing issues that Americans are focused on like building “safer communities and schools”, funding “good healthcare” and rebuilding the economy. 

“Instead of doing anything to address those real issues that are impacting American people, right now you have a governor from Tennessee [who] has decided to go after drag shows,” Jean-Pierre said.  

She continued: “What sense does that make to go after drag shows? How is that going to help people’s lives who are thinking about the economy, who are thinking about making sure their kids are going — are going to be safe when they go to school or their communities are safe? But that’s what he wants to focus on.”

You may like to watch

Karine Jean-Pierre pointed out the anti-drag law is “part of a larger pattern” of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation brought forward by elected officials who “espouse freedom and liberty” but “think that freedom of speech only extends to people who agree with them”. 

The White House press secretary added Lee has failed to “cite any examples” to “show that drag shows in public spaces are a problem”. 

“These ridiculous policies aren’t just unnecessary, they are dangerous,” she said. 

She continued: “They are. They vilify our fellow Americans at a time when LGBTQ Americans are facing higher risk [of] violence, mental health issues. 

“And it is unacceptable. It is completely unacceptable for a governor to be moving in this way with such a bill, and it is also unfortunate.”

Karine Jean-Pierre concluded by reiterating that president Joe Biden has been “very clear when it comes to vulnerable communities, like the LGBTQ community, that he has their backs”.

LGBTQ+ advocates and allies have denounced Tennessee’s anti-drag law, saying the art of drag is an important part of queer culture. 

The ban could have a chilling effect on Pride festivities as outdoor drag is a staple of such celebrations, and the legislation will go into effect ahead of Pride month in June.