Theater company sues state of Tenn. over drag bill

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 11:24 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A lawsuit was filed against the state of Tennessee over the passing of a first-of-its-kind drag bill that could bring criminal charges against some drag performers.

Governor Bill Lee signed into law the bill that will ban “adult cabaret performances” where children are present.

The bill puts limits on adult cabaret performers deemed by the state to be inappropriate for children, like topless dancers, strippers, and now male or female impersonators who provide entertainment, although the words “drag show” are not explicitly stated.

The lawsuit was filed by non-profit organization Friends of George’s out of Memphis, a theater company that produces drag-centric performances, comedy sketches and plays.

The lawsuit harkens back to Jackson Pride, an event that took place in October 22 that the group claims was appropriate for all ages. Due to public backlash, lawmakers asked the event be declared a public nuisance and permit the city of Jackson from granting a permit to the event’s organizers.

In this complaint, it was argued that all drag shows, no matter the content, should be classified as “adult cabaret.”

This led to Rep. Chris Todd (R-Jackson) to introduce House Bill 009, which would classify drag shows as adult cabaret state-wide.

Friends of George’s argues in the lawsuit that the bill is a violation of the first amendment.

“Given that Plaintiff cannot identify what conduct is covered by this law or what locations are included in the prohibition, they are reasonably concerned that the 6 performances of their all-ages drag show could subject them to felony charges,” the lawsuit states.

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