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Tennessee Gov. Supports Anti-Drag Bill But Apparently Once Posed in Drag

Tennessee Gov. Supports Anti-Drag Bill But Apparently Once Posed in Drag

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee

The picture appearing to be Bill Lee in drag in 1977 surfaced on Reddit over the weekend.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he’ll sign a bill restricting drag shows into law — even though an old photo of him in drag has surfaced.

The photo is from the 1977 yearbook for Franklin High School in Tennessee. It shows a boy, apparently Lee, in a dress, an ornate hat, and a pearl necklace. The caption is “Hard Luck Woman.” He’s surrounded by girls in men’s suits. It was shared on Reddit over the weekend.

Lee and his aides don’t deny that’s him in the picture, but they say there’s no comparison between his costume and the drag performances that House Bill 9 and Senate Bill 3 are seeking to restrict.

“The bill specifically protects children from obscene, sexualized entertainment, and any attempt to conflate this serious issue with lighthearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families,” a spokesperson for Lee said in a statement Monday.

At a press conference Monday, a reporter asked if Lee remembered posing in drag in 1977. He responded, “What a ridiculous, ridiculous question that is,” according to The Daily Beast. “Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious subject.”

Lee also said he’d definitely sign the drag show legislation into law, the first public statement he’s made on the matter,The Tennessean reports.

The legislation “classifies ‘male and female impersonators’ as adult cabaret performers and bans ‘adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors,’ as defined in Tennessee’s obscenity law,” the paper reported last week. Drag performances could not take place on public property or in venues accessible to minors. That could apply to a high school, where Lee’s picture was taken, the Beast notes.

The House Thursday passed a version of the bill that differed slightly from the one already adopted by the Senate, so it will go back to the Senate for one more vote before it goes to Lee.

It’s not clear how the law will be enforced. The Senate sponsor has said it would be up to local prosecutors, while the House sponsor “has suggested that any drag performance should be considered inappropriate for minors,” according to The Tennessean.

“These laws are written so broadly and vaguely that they would allow government officials to censor performers based on their own subjective viewpoints of what they deem appropriate on any given day,” said a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

The first violation of the law would be a misdemeanor offense, with a penalty of up to 11 months and 29 days in prison and/or a maximum fine of $2,500. A further violation would be a felony, with one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.

At Monday’s press conference, Lee also said he’d sign a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Both chambers of the legislature have approved that bill. Tennessee would join Alabama,Arkansas, South Dakota, and Utah in adopting such a ban legislatively; Florida has done so with actions by medical boards. The Alabama and Arkansas laws are blocked while lawsuits against them are heard.

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