Final hearings begin in lawsuit over Tenn. drag bill

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 9:47 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The final hearings to determine whether Tennessee’s drag ban will be implemented began in Federal Court today.

The case, Friends of George’s v Shelby County DA Steve Mulroy, will determine whether the legislation passed in the 113th state legislature that restricts or bans drag performances in spaces where minors can view them received a temporary restraining order last month.

Most of Monday’s discussion centered on definitions and distinctions inside of the legislation.

The defense argued the bill in no way infringes on Friends of George’s to perform. They told the court it would merely enact rules to check the ages of those who are attending drag shows—and bar all “non-adults.”

They referred to adult-only zones, which the state argued would keep minors safe from viewing drag shows.

But Brice Timmons, who represents Friends of George’s, told Action News 5 on Monday the original legislation did not include that language and the defense was interpreting something that’s not intended.

“That rule is nowhere in the bill that was passed in the legislature,” Timmons said. “The state can’t start putting ideas that aren’t in the original legislation. That’s not how it works.”

Timmons argued to interpret the law in this way infringes on the drag performers first amendment right to free speech, and that the states intention is to limit the scope of Friends of Georg’s shows to dark rooms and bars.

The initial thoughts from the plaintiff was that today would be the only day of hearings, but the judge ordered a recess until Tuesday after several hours of questioning.

Court will reconvene at the Odell Horton Federal Building at 9am Tuesday.

According to Timmons, the judge has expressed his desire to announce a final decision in the case by Friday, June 2, which is also the first day of Midsouth Pride.

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