Federal Judge Temporarily Halts Tennessee’s Ban on Drag Performances in Front of Children

A law that aimed to limit drag performances in front of children in Tennessee has been temporarily halted by a federal judge.

The judge issued a restraining order on Friday, citing the legislation’s likely vagueness and overly-broad restrictions on speech.

The law, which had been signed by Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee in February after passing through the state legislature, was intended to curtail public drag performances, particularly in front of children, on the grounds that they were unsuitable for young audiences.

Governor Lee had previously argued that the law would protect children from exposure to sexually explicit or obscene material.

However, the law would have gone into effect on Saturday had it not been blocked.

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Republican-led efforts to limit drag performances have been reported in at least 15 states in recent months.

A judge in Memphis, Tennessee, ruled in favor of Friends of George’s, an LGBTQ+ theater group that had filed a lawsuit against the state.

The judge, Thomas Parker, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, found that the statute was both vague and overly-broad.

He added that the state had not provided a compelling justification for the restrictions it wanted to impose.

The debate in Tennessee has centered on whether drag performances are inherently sexually explicit.

Critics of the proposed restrictions, including performers and civil rights groups, have argued that the regulations would be unconstitutional, redundant under existing obscenity laws, and likely to increase harassment and violence against LGBTQ+ people.

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