Tennessee’s draft-limiting measure turns heads on the governor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers advanced legislation Thursday that would severely limit where certain drag shows can take place, a proposal that Republican Gov. Bill Lee has promised to sign into law.

No other state has acted as quickly as Tennessee to ensure drag shows cannot be held in public or in front of children. And the move aligns with Tennessee being among the states that have passed the most anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent years.

Under the Tennessee bill, the words “drag show” are not specifically mentioned. Instead, the legislation changes the definition of adult cabaret in Tennessee law to mean “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.” The bill also says that “male or female impersonators” now fall under adult cabaret among topless dancers, strippers, exotic dancers and strippers.

The proposal then prohibits adult cabarets from being held on public property or in any place where minors may be present. Threatens artists with misdemeanor or felony charges if they repeat.

Lee has 10 days to sign the bill into law, but that countdown doesn’t begin until top legislative leaders send him the legislation, which could take a few days.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, the Republican bill’s sponsor, has said the bill would address “sexually suggestive drag shows” that are inappropriate for children.

In Tennessee and across the country, right-wing activists and politicians who protest the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children have cast a misleading light.

Tennessee’s action follows a recent bill signed by Arkansas’ governor to put new restrictions on shows aimed at adults. This bill originally targeted drag shows, but was scaled back after complaints that it discriminated against the LGBTQ community.

Drag does not usually involve nudity or stripping, which are more common in the distinct art of burlesque. Overtly sexual and profane language is common in drag shows, but such language is usually toned down when children are present, or venues or performers notify parents in advance that they should reconsider bringing their children along.

“Drag is a long-standing, festive form of entertainment and an important source of employment for many across the state,” Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement last week. “However, instead of focusing on real policy issues facing Tennesseans, politicians would rather spend their time and effort misrepresenting age-appropriate shows in a library to pass as many anti-LGBTQ+ bills as they can.”

The bill marks the second major proposal targeting the LGBTQ community that Tennessee lawmakers have passed since the start of their annual legislative session in January. Last week, lawmakers approved legislation banning most gender-affirming care. Lee says he plans to sign the bill.

Lee was fielding questions Monday from reporters about the legislation and other anti-LGBTQ bills when an activist asked him if he remembered “dressing crazy in 1977.” Lee was introduced with a photo showing the governor as a high school senior dressed in women’s clothing that was published in the 1977 Franklin High School yearbook. The photo was first posted on Reddit over the weekend.

Lee said it was “ridiculous” to compare the photo of him wearing women’s clothing to “sexual entertainment in front of children”. When asked for specific examples of inappropriate shows taking place in front of children, Lee did not mention any, pointing only to a nearby school building.

(tagsTo Translate)Kids Entertainment

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