Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Tennessee’s ‘Drag Ban’
A federal judge temporarily halted Tennessee’s bill that restricts public drag performances on Friday, hours before it was set to take effect on Saturday.
Judge Thomas L. Parker sided with Friends of George’s, a Memphis-based LGBTQ theatre group that filed suit against the state. “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,” Parker wrote, citing constitutional protections of freedom of speech. “The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark,” he added.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed the new bill into law March 2. On March 27, Friends of George’s filed the lawsuit, calling the law unconstitutional. Judge Parker heard arguments Thursday, and stated that the court agrees the statute is likely vague and overly broad.
The state’s anti-drag legislation was one of several similar bills being weighed across the country, and one of several bills aimed at the state’s LGBTQ+ community. There are currently multiple bills targeting trans healthcare, including one that is attempting to make it illegal to change one’s sex on official documents like birth certificates and driver’s licenses.
“We won because this is a bad law” said Mark Campbell, current President of the Board of Directors for Friend’s of George’s. “We look forward to our day in court where the rights for all Tennesseans will be affirmed.”