There are currently 20 proposed bills, across 15 US states, which target drag performances, with Tennessee leading the charge.
On Thursday (February 23) Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill banning drag shows in public, following a 77-16 vote in favor, sending the bill to Republican Governor Bill Lee’s desk to be signed.
Senate Bill 3, introduced in November by Republican state senate majority leader Jack Johnson, aims to update an existing state law preventing “adult-oriented businesses” from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks or places of worship to include “adult cabaret performances”, which the legislation defines as performances that feature “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest”.
Adult cabaret performances, which will now be applicable to drag, would be criminalized in public spaces or in front of children, regardless of the nature of the show.
Under the new legislation, a first offence would be treated as a misdemeanour, but a second offence would be classed as a felony.
The first drag ban has passed in Tennessee, and goes to the governors desk.
It could easily ban pride. It bans public drag. It bans transgender people performing, who are just living their lives.
It charges them with a felony!
It is blatantly unconstitutional. pic.twitter.com/oB82pIclet
— Erin Reed (@ErinInTheMorn) February 23, 2023
Alongside the drag ban, lawmakers also voted in favor of a bill that would ban doctors from providing gender-affirming medical treatment, such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery, for trans minors in the state.
The law will make Tennessee the first state to ban public drag, which advocacy groups have warned may effect LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations and, due to the vague language used in the bill, could be used against transgender people performing in any shows, as well as Pride parades.
Even if you aren’t targeted by these bills, please stand up for those who are.
These bills won’t stop and end in Tennessee, and it definitely won’t stop with just drag. This is an ongoing attempt to erase LGBTQ+ people.
Being queer should not be a criminal offense. https://t.co/U8GhUzskrM
— ✨Maddy Morphosis✨ (@MaddyMorphosis) February 24, 2023
RuPaul’s Drag Race queens with connections to Tennessee have been among the many public figures to condemn the bill. Drag Race season 15 queen Aura Mayari and All Stars 6 competitor Eureka both spoke to EW.
“I am deeply upset and saddened to hear about the drag ban in Tennessee. The state [proposed] this bill to protect children from seeing anything explicit, when in fact, it is a mask used to hide the discrimination toward the LGBTQ+ community and the desire to erase drag. Public indecency is already illegal in Tennessee, this is yet another awful attempt at trying to take away our rights,” said Aura.
While Eureka told the outlet: “It’s banning Pride, public drag, and trans performance, even though it’s their ‘normal’ presentation. The consequences [could involve] being charged as a felon. As we know, the felony badge of honor restricts lives of an overwhelming population of oppressed individuals, including race, sex, and now gender expression! It’s all disheartening and targeted towards minorities who aren’t ‘normalized’ by society,” Eureka said. “It’s going to affect jobs, ways of life, and personal security for individuals trying to live —and barely survive — in this state of Tennessee, and it’s extremely shameful to see!”
Tennessee ACLU has also slammed the bill, saying that “dance, fashion, and music – essential components of a drag performance – are all protected by the First Amendment,” while calling the bill “a malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life.”
Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre talked about what she called “a wave of anti-equality bills” having been proposed in revent weeks, revealing “Over 450 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have been filed across the country, 300 of those targeting children”
“Over 450 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have been filed across the country, 300 of those targeting children,” out White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre#LGBTQ #USpolitics #LGBTrights #TransRights #protecttranskids pic.twitter.com/C794SRyoge
— Queer Insider 🏳️🌈 🏳️⚧️ (@qitweets) February 25, 2023