Tenn. Senate passes bill criminalizing public drag performances

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 10:35 AM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - The Tennessee Senate passed a bill aimed at criminalizing public drag performances.

Senate Bill 3 would classify “adult cabaret performances” as a Class A misdemeanor if done on public property or where it can be viewed by a person who is not an adult.

The bill identifies “adult cabaret performances” as anything that features “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.”

These performances are described as harmful to minors in the bill, which is defined as:

  1. Would be found by the average person applying contemporary community standards to appeal predominantly to the prurient, shameful, or morbid interests of minors
  2. Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors
  3. Taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific values for minors.

The amended bill was sponsored by Senator Jack Johnson of Franklin.

“If you want to have that kind of entertainment in your private business, that’s fine, you just can’t let kids in,” said Johnson Thursday morning.

It was approved with a 26-6 vote, with all of the Senate Democrats opposing the measure.

“They filed this bill the day after Election Day. They made it very clear that the priorities of the Tennessee general assembly were to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and not real issues like crime, like jobs, like healthcare in our state,” said Shahin Samiei, Shelby County representative of the Tennessee Equality Project.

Subsequent violations of the law would be a Class E felony.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy would not comment on pending legislation, but he did tell Action News 5 that he “does not favor the bill.”

The bill must now go to the House for a vote, and if passed, will be signed by Governor Bill Lee.

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