Tennessee drag shows: State becomes first in 2023 to restrict performances
Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill into law Thursday afternoon that would limit public drag show performances in Tennessee, making his state the first to do so this year.
Passed by the state senate the bill Earlier on Thursday, along party lines to restrict “adult cabaret performances” on public property to protect them from the view of children, violators were threatened with abuse and repeat offenders.
The bill, which passed the Tennessee House last week, defines an adult cabaret performance as a performance “in which topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators provide entertainment.” who like a sober interest, or similar entertainers.”
Republicans hold majorities in both the state House and Senate. This law will come into effect from July 1, 2023.
The Tennessee measure is the first of nearly a dozen such bills currently working their way through GOP-led state legislatures. Republicans say the demonstrations expose children to sexual themes and images that are inappropriate, claims rejected by lawyers, who say the proposed measures discriminate against the LGBTQ community and could violate First Amendment laws.
As transgender issues and drag culture became more mainstream, such shows—which often featured men dressed as women while singing or entertaining the crowd—though some of the shows featured raunchy content. includes — are sometimes the target of attacks, and LGBTQ advocates say the bills under consideration add to a heightened state of concern for the community.
Republican state Sen. Jack Johnson, who sponsored the Tennessee legislation, told CNN on Thursday that the bill was not meant to target drag shows or transgender people.
“To clarify, this bill is not targeting any group of people. It does not ban drag shows in public. It only puts age restrictions in place to ensure that children are not present in sexually explicit performances,” Johnson said.
Before signing the bill, Lee faced accusations of hypocrisy when an anonymous Reddit user posted a photo from a 1977 high school yearbook showing the future governor dressed as a woman and wearing a man’s. Meant to show a wig with female students dressed in suits.
CNN has been unable to confirm the photo’s authenticity.
At a news conference Monday, the GOP governor sidestepped a question about whether he once dressed in drag but rejected any comparison between the alleged image and the drag show law.
“It’s a ridiculous, ridiculous question, to associate something like this with sexual entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious topic,” Lee said, according to the CNN affiliate. WZTV.
Next a spokesperson for Lee Detailed “The bill specifically protects children from indecent, sexualized entertainment, and any attempt to conflate this serious issue with light-hearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families,” told The Daily Beast.
This story and headline have been updated to reflect additional developments.