U. S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker of the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee ordered a temporary injunction halting a just enacted Tennessee law that criminalizes some drag performances, hours before it was set to take effect Saturday, April 1.
A Shelby County-Memphis based LGBTQ theatre company, Friends of George’s, had sued the state of Tennessee, claiming the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
In his 15 page order issued late Friday evening Parker wrote: “If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution. […] The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark.” The theatre troupe, which had a scheduled April 14 performance, had argued in their motion for a restraining order: “This law threatens to force a theatre troupe into a nightclub, because Tennessee legislators believe they have the right to make their own opinions about drag into law.
Plaintiff’s other option is to proceed as planned, knowing that the Friends of George’s drag performers could face criminal — even felony — charges.” In their filing, the plaintiff’s also argued that as an example should in a performance a drag performer alongside a Tennessee Titan cheerleader, (A National Football League member team based in Nashville) with minor children present, that under the language of the anti-drag law, only the drag performer would be breaking the law. “Thus, the prohibited speech is defined by the identity of the drag performer — and the message he conveys,” attorneys for Friends of George’s wrote, adding that