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Trump-Appointed Judge Temporarily Blocks Tennessee’s Anti-Drag Law

Trump-Appointed Judge Temporarily Blocks Tennessee’s Anti-Drag Law

Maren Morris with drag queen Alexia Noelle Paris
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

It was to go into effect on April 1 at midnight.


A federal judge in Tennessee has blocked the state’s anti-drag law from going into effect for now.

The law, which restricts drag performances, was signed into law last month by Republican Gov. Bill Lee. It passed along with a bill banning gender-affirming care for youth.

Those found in violation of the law, which outlaws as “adult cabaret entertainment” with “male or female impersonators,” could face felony charges on repeat offenses. It bans drag performances from public property or venues that “could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.”

Memphis-based nonprofit Friends of George’s, a theater company that produces original, drag-centric performances, sued the state earlier this week over the law.

In their suit, the group said the law "explicitly [restricts or chills] speech and expression protected by the First Amendment based on its content, its message, and its messenger."

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, handed down a 14-day temporary restraining order only hours before the law was to go into effect.

In his order, Parker explained that the state hadn’t provided “a clear answer to the Statute's purpose considering current state obscenity laws, along with the Parties' present filings on the Statute's legislative history, the Court finds that Plaintiff has made a likely case for subjecting the Statute to strict scrutiny here."

He noted that the restrictions placed on the theater were not “trifling issues for a theater company — certainly not in the free, civil society we hold our country to be.”

A hearing is set a day before Friends of George’s next show scheduled for April 14.

“We won because this is a bad law,” Mark Campbell, president of the board of directors of Friends of George’s, said in a release. “We look forward to our day in court where the rights for all Tennesseans will be affirmed.”

“We are committed to landing a victory against hate,” said Goldie Dee Collins, a board member of the group and a drag queen. “We stand in firm solidarity with all drag performers, the greater LBGTQIA+ community, and countless allies in the fight for Justice, self-expression, and pursuit of happiness.”

The law is one of around 12 similar bills proposed in Republican-led state legislatures across the country. Tennessee is the first state to have such a measure signed into law.

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