Mar 1, 2023 - Politics

Tennessee governor to sign drag restrictions bill

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Bill Lee said he would sign a bill to restrict some drag shows, and he dismissed questions about a yearbook photo that appears to show him dressed in women's clothes in high school.

Driving the news: The picture emerged on Reddit over the weekend from Franklin High School's 1977 yearbook.

  • Girls in the photo are dressed in men's suits.
  • When he was asked if he remembered the moment this week while talking with reporters, Lee called it "a ridiculous, ridiculous question."

What they're saying: Lee spokesperson Jade Byers tells Axios the governor commends the sponsor, Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, "for bringing this bill to protect children specifically from obscene, sexualized entertainment."

  • "Any attempt by political activists to conflate this serious issue with lighthearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families."

Catch up quick: States across the country are moving to restrict drag performances this year. Republicans in Tennessee have echoed Lee's comments about preventing children from seeing explicit content.

  • Critics argue the state's existing obscenity law already does that, and that the Republican effort mischaracterizes drag shows, which do not typically feature nudity.
  • Drag performances vary widely. Libraries or restaurants might host family-friendly events, while shows at adults-only clubs might feature bawdy humor.

Between the lines: The bill as written would only apply to performances that are deemed "harmful to minors" under the obscenity law.

  • But opponents worry it could be enforced more broadly based on differing interpretations from officials across the state.
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