In a win for LGBTQ+ rights, a federal judge has temporarily stopped Tennessee’s anti-drag ban. 

On 2 March, Republican governor Bill Lee signed Senate Bill 3 into law, making Tennessee the first state in the US to ban public drag shows.

While the word “drag” was not explicitly listed, the legislation prevents any “adult cabaret performances” – which are defined as “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest” – from operating within 1000 feet of schools, public parks or places of worship.

Fortunately on 31 March, Judge Thomas Parker issued a temporary restraining order against the law – which was set to go into effect on 1 April. 

“The United States Constitution – a law that is supreme even to the Tennessee General Assembly’s acts – has placed some issues beyond the reach of the democratic process,” the federal judge said in his ruling.

“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution.

“The court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark.” 

Judge Parker also pointed out the broad and inconsistent nature of the law, stating: “Does a citizen’s private residence count? How about a camping ground at a national park? Ultimately, the Statue’s broad language clashes with the First Amendment’s tight constraints.

“A law is unconstitutionally vague if individuals of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application.”

Judge Parker’s ruling comes a few days after the Memphis-based LGBTQ+ theatre group, Friends of George’s, filed a lawsuit against the state. 

“Under this reading of the law, a drag queen wearing a mini skirt and a cropped top and dancing in front of children violates this statute, but a Tennessee Titans cheerleader wearing precisely the same outfit doing precisely the same routine does not, because she is not a ‘female impersonator,” the original suit read. 

The aforementioned restraining order is set to stay in effect for 14 days.

Shortly after Judge Paker’s ruling was made public, LGBTQ+ activists and organisations took to social media to praise the move – including the President of the Board of Directors for Friends of George’s, Mark Campbell.

“We won because this is a bad law. We look forward to our day in court where the rights of all Tennesseans will be affirmed,” Campbell wrote.