Judge: Tenn. Law Protecting Kids from Drag Shows Unconstitutional; Drag Queen: ‘Overturn All Those Silly Laws’

Craig Bannister | June 5, 2023
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A federal judge ruled Friday that Tennessee’s law protecting children from being exposed to public drag shows is unconstitutional and a local drag queen wants courts to “stay on the path that we’re on and overturn all of those silly laws.”

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Parker ruled that Tennessee’s Adult Entertainment Act is “unconstitutionally vague,” “overly broad” and impinges on the right to free speech.

In his ruling, Judge Parker drew distinctions between that which is considered “obscene” by the public and that which is defined as obscene by the law, as well as between what is “obscene” and what is “sexually explicit”:

"There is no question that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. But there is a difference between material that is ‘obscene’ in the vernacular, and material that is ‘obscene’ under the law."


"Simply put, no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit — but not obscene — speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech."

The law was supposed to go into effect on April 1 of this year, but had been held up while Judge Parker considered a legal challenge to it. The law bans “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors” and classifies “male and female impersonators” as “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors, as that term is defined in § 39-17-901, and that feature topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators, or similar entertainers.”

Under § 39-17-901, performances considered “harmful to minors” include those featuring “nudity, sexual excitement, sexual conduct, excess violence or sadomasochistic abuse,” while obscenity relates to work that “taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.”

Liberal media, drag performers and members of the LGBTQI+ community were quick to cheer Judge Parker’s decision and claim that it isn’t enough.

Courts need to “stay on the path that we’re on and overturn all of those silly laws,” drag performer Tyra Von Shade told WBIR Channel 10 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Shade told WBIR that it’s never been about drag or protecting children, Shade said: “It’s always been about trans issues and trying to suppress trans people and take away trans rights”:

“They took away trans healthcare from kids. They took away gender-affirming care from children.”

By “rights,” Shade means allowing minors to be subjected to genital-mutilating sex-change surgery and hormone replacement therapy, in the name of “healthcare” and “gender-affirming” procedures:

Shade even claimed that “Drag is not sexual, by nature,” because drag performers also “do a lot of lip-sync performances, character impersonation.”

"Sadly, this ruling is a victory for those who support exposing children to sexual entertainment," Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R), one of the bill’s sponsors, warned in a statement reacting to Judge Parker’s decision.

The ruling “ignored 60 years of Supreme Court precedent allowing regulation of obscene entertainment in the presence of minors,” Sen. Johnson said, urging Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti to appeal the decision.

“Regardless, we will not waiver in our efforts to protect the children of Tennessee,” Sen. Johnson vowed.

My statement on the judge's decision on Senate Bill 3: pic.twitter.com/AoWoYsMGXU

— Jack Johnson (@SenJohnson) June 3, 2023