Proposed legislation could criminalize some drag shows in Tennessee

Republican lawmakers are pushing to ban public drag shows. WSMV's Tosin Fakile reports.
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 7:27 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Some drag shows performed in public could soon be a crime in Tennessee if a new bill introduced by the Senate Republican Majority Leader passes.

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said Senate Bill 3 is about protecting children from sexually explicit shows.

The bill filed on Wednesday said sexually explicit adult entertainment like drag shows shouldn’t take place in public where it can be seen by children or on private property if kids will be able to see it.

The wording used in the bill says “adult cabaret” which it explains includes performances like exotic dancers or male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to excessive interest in sexual matters.

“We’ve had reports in recent weeks or months of some drag shows with sexually explicit activity going on taking place in parks, in libraries, where kids were present,” Johnson said. “I’ve heard from constituents. I know my colleagues have heard from constituents. Outrage. You take your kid to the park to play on the swing set and across the way there is adult-themed sexually explicit drag show taking place. Well, that’s unacceptable.”

If the legislation becomes law, the criminal price to pay ranges from Class A misdemeanor for a first-time offense to a Class E felony for repeated violators.

Senate Bill 3 is the second bill sponsored by Johnson since Tuesday’s election that impacts some in the LGBTQ+ community.

Some in the LGBTQ+ community believe the legislation feels like an attack.

“It’s not about attack. I want every Tennessean to live a happy, fulfilled life to the extent they can, and once you are an adult, I believe in freedom, I believe in personal liberty for you to live your life in the way you want to live it,” Johnson said. “The state of Tennessee has an obligation to protect kids.”

WSMV4 reached out to some establishments that hold drag shows but didn’t hear back before deadline.

The Republican leader didn’t give specifics of what parks or areas the drag shows in public were held that led to the new bill.