AFPTer illustration: drag queens at a performance in Blackpool, UK
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 16:14
A federal judge in the United States yesterday blocked a law banning drag shows in the state of Tennessee at the last minute. The law was supposed to come into force today, but according to the judge it is contrary to the constitution.
The law is a first for the US and prohibits drag queens from performing in public places, in front of children or near schools. Earlier last month, Republican Governor Bill Lee signed the controversial bill.
The word drag does not appear in the new law. The text says that “cabaret intended for adults” is not allowed in public places or anywhere a child can see it. The ban applies to topless dancers and strippers, as well as male and female impersonators who perform performances that are “harmful to children”.
A theater group from the city of Memphis, which regularly performs drag shows, filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee last week. According to that group, the law violates the First Amendment in the Constitution, which protects freedom of speech and expression.
In this video, a clergyman and a drag queen in Tennessee share their thoughts on the law:
Controversial law for drag queens fuels tensions in Tennessee
A few hours before the law was to take effect, the judge ruled in favor of the theater group – at least temporarily. According to the judge, the state has not been able to substantiate sufficiently that the law is necessary, and the description of the regulation is too vague and too broad.
For example, the law would not make a clear distinction between – for example – a performance by a drag queen in a skirt and top and a similar performance in the same outfit by a sports team cheerleader.
Moreover, there is confusion about the locations where the performances are prohibited by law. “Does a private home also fall under this? And a camping site in a nature park?”, said the judge in the ruling. “Ultimately, the text of the law violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
The court’s ruling has postponed the entry into force of the law by at least fourteen days. “If the state of Tennessee wants to ban speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the limits of the US Constitution,” the judge said. The next step is now a new hearing, in which the state tries to refute the objections of the judge and the theater group.
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