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Federal judge rejects Tennessee drag show ban as unconstitutional

Published Jun 03, 2023 11:54AM ET Updated Jun 05, 2023 03:40AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The outside of Atomic Rose where spectators watch a drag performance ahead of the implementation of a Tennessee law restricting drag in front of minors that is due to come into force on April 1 at Atomic Rose in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S., March

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge has ruled that Tennessee's law restricting drag performances in public or where children were present was unconstitutional, striking a blow to efforts in U.S. states to regulate LGBTQ conduct.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee in February had signed the bill passed by the state's assembly that aimed to restrict drag performances, putting the state at the forefront of a Republican-led effort to limit drag in at least 15 states in recent months.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, an appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump, ruled late on Friday that the law was "both unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad." The First Amendment to the Constitution commands that laws infringing on freedom of speech must be narrow and well defined, Parker said in the 70-page ruling.

"Simply put, no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit — but not obscene — speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech," Parker said in the ruling.

Under the law, offenders could face fines and up to a year in prison and repeat offenders could have faced prison sentences of up to six years.

Ahead of the 2024 elections, Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced more than 500 bills this year regulating the conduct of gay and transgender people, ranging from what can be taught in schools to bathroom use and medical care. At least 48 of those have passed, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group.

Parker had temporarily blocked the law on March 31, just before it was set to go into effect, siding with Friends of George's, a Memphis-based LGBTQ theater group that filed suit against the state.

GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, praised Parker's decision. "This ruling is a turning point and we will not go back," GLAAD said in a release.

"Every anti-LGBTQ elected official is on notice that these baseless laws will not stand and that our constitutional freedom of speech and expression protects everyone and propels our culture forward," the group said.

Federal judge rejects Tennessee drag show ban as unconstitutional
 

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Comments (4)
Darren Caris
DJC1 Jun 05, 2023 4:13AM ET
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legally right. morally destructive.
Jun 04, 2023 11:41AM ET
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Why shouldnt drag performers be able to perform similated sex acts in front of six year olds? What are you people, hateful Transphobes?
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 04, 2023 11:41AM ET
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Because that would be obscenity, which is against the law.
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Jun 04, 2023 11:41AM ET
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I see SN has a secret?.. wishing for something that is illegal ...the court said nothing about legalizing public sex acts.. naughty boy!!
Ryan Rainer
Ryan Rainer Jun 04, 2023 10:29AM ET
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Now tell me about the Christian baker who wouldnt make a cake for a gay couple. Two-faced judiciary
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 04, 2023 10:29AM ET
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That went to the Supreme Court. The case is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and the Court ruled in favor of the baker. You don't know what you are talking about.
Don Getty
Don Getty Jun 03, 2023 8:43PM ET
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got to hate when a GOP judge actually upholds the constitution
taylor jason
taylor jason Jun 03, 2023 8:43PM ET
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elected by king trump himself none the less.. lmaoo
 
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