Republicans submit bill that would criminalize drag performances in Tennessee

Rachel Lang

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Republicans submit bill that would criminalize drag performances in Tennessee

Featured Image Credit: DPA picture alliance / Alamy. Stephen Chung / Alamy.

Tennessee Republicans are on a mission to ban drag performances on public and private property.

Members of the GOP pre-filed a bill that, if it becomes law, would make appearing in drag a crime.

As per the SB.3 bill, the charge would range from a misdemeanour penalty to an actual felony.

The bill is broad, but it could be applied from anything to a comedy performance to a drag show and even drag story hour at local libraries.

Rich Kuntz, also known as Gidget, reads to children during Drag Queen Story Hour. Credit: Tribune Content Agency LLC / Alamy
Rich Kuntz, also known as Gidget, reads to children during Drag Queen Story Hour. Credit: Tribune Content Agency LLC / Alamy

Tennessee Senate Majority Leader, Jack Johnson, made it clear in an interview with Nashville's WKRN-TV that the laws are designed to single out people in drag.

"I don’t want to ban a theatre company from doing a production of Mrs Doubtfire in a public park," he said.

"Most people have seen that movie where Robin Williams was dressing up as a woman.

"We don’t have an issue with that."

He added: "We do have an issue with men dressed as women simulating sex acts in public parks in front of kids."

Johnson’s bill, if it goes ahead, would amend a Tennessee state law preventing adult-oriented businesses like strip clubs from operating within 300 metres of schools, public parks or places of worship to include 'adult cabaret performances'.

It will also include exotic dancers and 'male or female impersonators'.

If the bill makes it through the state's Republican-controlled legislature and receive the Republican Governor Bill Lee's seal of approval, first-time offenders could then be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanour, which is punishable by a year in prison and a fine of USD$2,500 (AUD$3,786, £2,139).

Drag queen Plastique Tiara (Duc Tran Nguyen) performs at Drive N Drag Saves 2021 in Seattle. Credit: Paul Christian Gordon / Alamy
Drag queen Plastique Tiara (Duc Tran Nguyen) performs at Drive N Drag Saves 2021 in Seattle. Credit: Paul Christian Gordon / Alamy

Repeat offenders may be charged with a Class E felony, which carries a heavier prison sentence that could see drag queens imprisoned for up to six years and fines that could reach as high as USD$3,000 (AUD$4,545, £2,566).

Johnson won reelection at the midterms on the promise that he would preserve the state's conservative values, including the belief that marriage must remain the 'sacred union of one man and one woman'.

Johnson filed another bill this week, in partnership with Tennessee House Majority Leader and fellow Republican William Lamberth, that would prevent ban doctors from giving lifesaving, gender-affirming healthcare to transgender youths who are under the age of 18, The Hill reports.

Topics: News, US News, Politics, LGBTQ

Rachel Lang
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