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 April 2, 2023

Judge blocks Tennessee law that stops children from being exposed to drag shows

Fox News reports that a federal judge has just blocked the implementation of a Tennessee law that looks to prevent children from being exposed to drag performances. 

The judge who did so is Judge Thomas Parker. Parker, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, is a member of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.

The law at issue, here, is Tennessee Senate Bill 3.

According to the law's summary, "this bill creates an offense for a person who engages in an adult cabaret performance on public property or in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult."

The law defines "adult cabaret performance" as follows:

a performance in a location other than an adult cabaret that features topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.

A first violation of the law would be a Class A misdemeanor, while subsequent violations would be a Class E felony.

In February, after passing through the Tennessee legislature, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed the bill into law. In doing so, Lee said that it would protect children from being exposed to "sexualized entertainment" or "obscenity."

The law, nonetheless, was legally challenged by the Memphis-based LGBTQ+ theater group Freinds of George's.

As part of that challenge, the group asked the court for some preliminary relief, stopping the law from taking effect while its legality is being litigated.

Judge Parker, in a 15-page ruling, granted that preliminary relief.

Parker, in his ruling, stated that the Tennessee law is likely "vague and overly broad" in its restriction of speech. In other words, Parker opined that the law likely violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Demonstrating how the law could be "vague and overly broad," Parker, in his opinion, asks, "Does a citizen’s private residence count? How about a camping ground at a national park?"

"Ultimately, the Statute’s broad language clashes with the First Amendment’s tight constraints," Parker concludes.

Parker's ruling comes just before the Tennessee law was scheduled to take effect, which would have been on Saturday. Now, however, the implementation of the law has been halted. The judicial process will now play out to determine whether or not the Tennessee law complies with the Constitution - it ought to be emphasized that Parker's decision is not a final decision on the merits.

Written By:
Robert Ayers

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