A first-in-the-nation law passed in Tennessee aimed at placing strict limits on drag shows has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, appointed by former President Donald Trump, delivered the ruling on Friday, stating the law was both “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” and encouraged “discriminatory enforcement.”
The law would have prohibited adult cabaret performances from public property or anywhere minors might be present. Performers violating the law could face charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony for repeat offenses.
Judge Parker emphasized the difference between ‘obscene’ in the vernacular and ‘obscene’ under the law, stating, “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.”
Friends of George’s, a Memphis-based LGBTQ+ theater company, filed a complaint in March, arguing the law would negatively impact them because they produce “drag-centric performances, comedy sketches, and plays” with no age restrictions.
Celebrating the judge’s ruling, the theater company said in a statement, “This win represents a triumph over hate,” adding that the ruling affirmed their First Amendment rights as artists.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, a Republican and one of the law’s main sponsors, expressed disappointment with the ruling. Johnson claimed that the ruling was a victory for those supporting the exposure of children to sexual entertainment and expressed hope that the state’s attorney general would appeal the ruling.
The Tennessee Republican-dominated Legislature had put forward the anti-drag law earlier this year, with several GOP members referring to drag performances in their local areas as reasons to restrict such performances from taking place in public or where children could witness them.
The actual word “drag” doesn’t appear in the statute. Instead, lawmakers altered the state’s definition of adult cabaret to mean “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.” The term “male or female impersonators” was categorized as a form of adult cabaret, akin to strippers or topless dancers.
The governor quickly signed off on the statute, which was due to take effect on April 1. However, it has never been enforced to date, as Judge Parker had sided with the group that challenged the statute in March and temporarily blocked the law.
What this shows is not exactly what the left thinks. It shows that a Trump appointed judge adheres to the rule of law and not party politics. Which is more than can be said about the other side. It is not about politics, it’s about following the law, and if you write a bad law that is unconstitutional in the plain language than it is the fault of the law maker, not the judge. The judge simply points out whether something is unconstitutional based on the plain language of the law.
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