Locals rally against bills targeting LGBTQ+ community in Tenn. state legislature

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 11:18 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphians in the LGBTQ+ community and allies held a rally Friday against that legislation and other bills they feel harm their community.

The rally comes one day after Tennessee lawmakers passed the state’s “drag show” bill.

It prohibits “adult-oriented” entertainment on public property and limits it to age-restricted venues.

“When our communities are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

Memphis’ LGBTQ+ community and others gathered in Midtown Memphis pushing back against several bills they say hurt and target their community.

“Tennessee needs to stop legislating against us and start taking real pride in our history and what we have to offer because we have a rich artistic legacy when it comes to drag,” said local drag performer Moth Moth Moth.

“The little bit of land that we’ve had, culturally, to build ourselves up on, squeezed right out of existence,” Moth Moth Moth added. “There’s a real and very powerful possibility that will happen and that obliterates our jobs, our career.”

But it doesn’t just affect drag performers, it would affect some Broadway performances as well.

“We’re concerned about shows like Mrs. Doubtfire, Victor/Victoria, I mean... I can go on,” said President and CEO of the Orpheum Theater Group Brett Batterson. “Tootsie. Shows that are perfectly suited for all ages, potentially being impacted by the bill.”

Senate Bill 3 calls “male and female impersonators” adult cabaret performers.

Some Broadway productions use women as leads for male roles, and vice versa.

Batterson questions whether some traveling shows will avoid Memphis and Tennessee altogether because of the bill.

“Our focus of course right now is on our industry and how it can impact what we can bring to Memphis,” said Batterson. “What we’re allowed to show Memphis. We’re not going to get an adult cabaret license, nor do we want to. We want to make sure shows that include some cross-dressing are still acceptable.”

Senate Bill 9 heads to the State Senate for a procedural vote and then on to Governor Lee, who is expected to sign it.

“It’s really not going to knock us down,” said local drag performer Honey Blunt. “You can’t limit art. You can’t limit expression and that’s what this is. This is silly with everything going on in the state for them to waste their time with us. And that’s just tea.”

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