|Tenn. Gov. Bill Lee in drag second from the left.|
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has said that he will consider signing a bill making drag and transgender people who appear in public where minors "could" be present a felony.
SB 3/HB 9 makes it a felony for those who "provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration."
What is "prurient interest"? It is material "having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts." as discussed in Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957)
The problem is a picture has emerged of Lee performing in drag publicly as a high school student during his senior year at Franklin High, Tenn. This image can be found in his yearbook 1977, on page 165.
👀 WATCH: “Do you remember dressing in drag in 1977? Is it only illegal when gay people do it?” @GovBillLee didn’t appreciate that we printed out the FRANKLIN HIGH YEARBOOK PHOTO — but did not deny it’s him. Meanwhile he’s about to make drag a felony by signing an absurd law.🤔 pic.twitter.com/C7YQcQyis3— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) February 27, 2023
I graduated about that time and I recall those events. They were held yearly at my high school. I found them disgusting as the spectacle denigrated femininity, and explicitly portrayed women as defenseless sexual toys while legitimizing white supremacy and toxic masculinity. (Lee appeared in a Confederate Uniform but has since called that a mistake)
Would Lee's drag performance appeal to prurient interests of his fellow minor high school students? I wasn't there, but really, that was what it was all about.
The New Republic reports that House Bill 9 is headed to Governor Bill Lee, who has said he will decide whether to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. If he does, the measure will go into effect on April 1, two months ahead of Pride Month. The bill bans “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to prurient interest,” meaning of a sexual nature, either in public or if there is a minor present. The language is vague and makes no distinction between drag performers and transgender people.
When H.B. 9 was first introduced in November 2022, the ACLU of Tennessee noted that “dance, fashion, and music—essential components of a drag performance—are all protected by the First Amendment. Yet, these laws are written so broadly and vaguely that they would allow government officials to censor performers based on their own subjective viewpoints of what they deem appropriate on any given day.”
“So, let’s call this what it is—a malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life,” the group said in a statement.
The bill’s vagueness could also affect Pride celebrations, which last for the month of June. Drag performers or trans people appearing in public could be charged with felonies simply for existing.
Transgender people and drag artists dancing in a pride parade could be considered criminal.— Erin Reed (@ErinInTheMorn) February 23, 2023
Cops could begin arresting people at pride events in Tennessee for being "male or female impersonators" dancing down the street as so many of us have seen and partaken in.
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