A state bill was filed in Tennessee that will ban drag queens’ performances in the presence of children.
The bill, proposed by Republican senator Jack Johnson back in November, aims to restrict where drag events can take place so that children are not exposed to sexually explicit material.
Johnson’s bill would amend a state law preventing adult-oriented businesses like strip clubs from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, or places of worship to include “adult cabaret performances,” including those of exotic dancers and “male or female impersonators.”
Johnson told WKRN-TV in Nashville this week that the bill is designed to prevent drag shows that are “sexual in nature” from being performed in places where children may be present, but said there would be some exceptions.
“I don’t want to ban a theater company from doing a production of Mrs. Doubtfire in a public park,” Johnson said. “Most people have seen that movie where Robin Williams was dressing up as a woman. We don’t have an issue with that. We do have an issue with men dressed as women simulating sex acts in public parks in front of kids.”
Should the bill advance through Tennessee’s Republican-controlled legislature and receive the approval of Gov. Bill Lee (R), first-time offenders would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by jail time of up to a year and a fine of $2,500.
Repeat offenders would be charged with a Class E felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to six years and fines totaling up to $3,000.
Johnson, who won reelection in midterms, campaigned on a promise to preserve the conservative values of Tennesseans, including the notion that marriage “must remain the sacred union of one man and one woman.”
AWM has more details of critics’ reactions to the recent plan to ban sexually explicit drag shows:
Critics feel that drag queen performances are not offensive.
“What does it mean when someone who is dancing shakes their hips,” executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project Chris Saunders told NBC News. “Cheerleaders clearly do it. Dance teams clearly do it. If a drag queen does it, does that suddenly make it sexual?”
Saunders warned that the conservative bill would attack the LGBTQ community because drag queen performers can be both “male or female impersonators.”
“This can go down a very bad path quickly,” Saunders said. “You could be harassed increasingly for being trans and nonbinary in public.”
Meanwhile, Senator Johnson claims that drag queens are exposing children to sexualized “content” that should be monitored around children.
“The intent of the legislation is just to simply say that you cannot have sexually explicit entertainment … in a public venue where kids might be present,” Johnson said.
The senator added, “We’re protecting kids and families and parents who want to be able to take their kids to public places. We’re not attacking anyone or targeting anyone. I’ve heard references to this bill that it will ban drag shows. Well, no, it won’t. It just says you can’t do something that’s sexually explicit. It won’t prevent someone dressed in drag from being in a parade or being in public.”
Watch the video report below for more details: