A federal judge in Tennessee on Friday temporarily halted the state’s new law criminalizing some drag performances.
Judge Thomas Parker cited constitutional free speech protections in issuing a temporary restraining order.
Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed the new bill into law on March 2. It was scheduled to go into effect on Saturday.
The first of its kind law prohibits «adult cabaret entertainment» on public property or in places where it may be viewed by a minor.
The law has sometimes been referred to as a dragging ban.
Friends of George’s, Inc., which is a Memphis-based LGBTQ theater company, sued the law, calling it unconstitutional.
“This law threatens to force a theater company into a nightclub, because Tennessee legislators believe they have the right to express their own opinions about drag becoming law,” the theater group argues in its complaint. . «Plaintiff’s other option is to proceed as planned, knowing that the Friends of George drag performers could face criminal charges, including felonies.»
Supporters say the law protects children from exposure to inappropriate entertainment.
In the ruling, the judge cited constitutionally protected freedom of expression.
«If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power to restrict speech it deems obscene, it must do so within the limitations and framework of the United States Constitution,» Parker wrote.
“The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark,” he wrote.