A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation law placing strict limits on drag shows just hours before it was set to go into effect, siding with a group that filed a lawsuit claiming the statute violates the First Amendment.
The decision comes after Memphis-based Friends of George’s, an LGBTQ+ theater company, filed the federal lawsuit Monday against Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy and the state, saying the state intended with the law to “explicitly restrict or chill speech and expression protected by the First Amendment based on its content, its message, and its messenger.”
U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker issued the temporary injunction after hearing arguments on both sides Thursday.
“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. The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark,” Parker wrote.
Federal judge says drag show law likely too vague, broad
The word “drag” doesn’t appear in the new law, which instead changed the definition of adult cabaret in Tennessee to mean “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.” Furthermore, “male or female impersonators” are now classified as a form of adult cabaret, akin to strippers and topless, go-go and exotic dancers.