Apr 3, 2023 - News

Judge temporarily blocks Tennessee drag law

Illustration of a general prohibition symbol, with a gavel as a crossbar.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A federal judge in Memphis temporarily blocked a new Tennessee law that aims to restrict some drag performances.

Driving the news: U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Parker granted a temporary restraining order against the law on Friday, right before it was set to take effect.

  • A Memphis theater company that features drag performances filed a lawsuit saying the law, which makes it a crime to perform "adult cabaret" in public or where minors could see it, violates the First Amendment.

Zoom in: "Adult cabaret" refers to "adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors" under the state's obscenity code. The law says those performances might include "male or female impersonators."

What he's saying: Parker, a Trump appointee, wrote that the law appeared to be "vague and overly-broad."

  • "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," Parker wrote.
  • "As it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark."

What's next: The lawsuit is in an early stage. Parker's order prevents the law from taking effect until additional arguments are heard.


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