In Tennessee in the US, a law designed to restrict limits drag shows was declared as unconstitutional by a federal judge, who stressed that this law is both “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” while also encouraging “discriminatory enforcement.”
The law was pushed by extreme right-wing Republican politicians, but the judge – US District Judge Thomas Parker – who was appointed by former extremist right-wing Republican president Donald Trump still found it problematic.
“There is no question that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. But there is a difference between material that is ‘obscene’ in the vernacular, and material that is ‘obscene’ under the law… 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.
Had it been implemented, the law would have banned adult cabaret performances from public property or anywhere minors might be present, with the law eyeing to punish performers who broke the law with a misdemeanor or a felony for a repeat offense.
For Parker, a female performer wearing an Elvis Presley costume and mimicking the dead musician could be at risk of punishment under this law because they would be considered a “male impersonator.”
Tennessee’s Republican-overwhelmed Legislature advanced the anti-drag law earlier this year. So as not to appear anti-LGBTQIA, the politicians did not actually use the word “drag”, even if drag performers may have been the targeted population. Instead, lawmakers changed the state’s definition of adult cabaret to mean “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.” Also, “male or female impersonators” were classified as a form of adult cabaret, akin to strippers or topless dancers.
With the governor signing the law, it was supposed to take effect April 1, although a federal judge temporarily blocked the law.