Judge temporarily blocks Tennessee’s vile drag ban 

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A federal judge has temporarily blocked Tennessee’s strict law restricting drag performances, saying it is “vague and overly-broad”. 

In February, the southern state became the first in the US to restrict drag performances following a huge increase in the number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills being tabled across the country. 

However, on Friday (31 March), Senate Bill 3 was blocked by Judge Thomas Parker. It would otherwise have come into effect on Saturday (1 April).

Tennessee’s Senate Bill 3 aims to update an existing state law to prevent “adult-oriented businesses” from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks or places of worship, including “adult cabaret performances”. 

The legislation defines these performances as which feature “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest”.

Those who breach the law face a misdemeanour for a first offence and up to six years in prison for subsequent offences, which would be labelled felonies.  

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Alongside the drag ban, lawmakers also voted to ban doctors from providing gender-affirming medical treatment such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery – which is extremely rare – for transgender minors.

Federal judge Thomas Parker, who was appointed by Donald Trump whilst he was in office, temporarily blocked the law and said: “At this point, the court finds that the statute is likely both vague and overly-broad.”

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Drag ban ‘missed the mark’, federal judge says

In the ruling, Parker sided with Friends of George’s – a Memphis-based LGBTQ theatre group – which filed a lawsuit against the state over the bill. 

The plaintiff claimed the language in the ban means it could be applied “just about anywhere”.

“What exactly is a location on public property or a ‘location where an adult cabaret entertainment could be viewed by a person who is not an adult’?” Parker asked.

“Does a citizen’s private residence count? How about a camping ground at a national park? What if a minor browsing the worldwide web from a public library views an ‘adult cabaret performance’? Ultimately, the Statute’s broad language clashes with the First Amendment’s tight constraints.”

Parked acknowledged that blocking legislation is an “extraordinary” measure and the court does not take such “actions lightly”. 

“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. 

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

Friends of George’s released a statement following the ruling. 

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Celebrating the decision, the group said: “FOG is dedicated to championing the freedom of expression for not only ourselves but for everyone across TN.  

“We stand in solidarity with all drag performers, the LGBTQIA+ community & our allies as we continue the fight for justice self-expression & the pursuit of happiness.”

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