Tennessee bill would criminalize drag shows

The election may be over, but Republican senators are wasting no time drafting up new bills for the upcoming session.

This time, there’s a bill that’s targeting a chunk of our Tennessee population – the LGBTQ community, and any public shows.

This comes just over a month after a drag show was canceled at the Museum of Science and History after threats of violence.

RELATED: Memphis drag entertainer questions cancelation of drag show

For Richard Mancell, performing in drag shows is more than a hobby. It’s an experience, but just not the same experience that Senate Bill 3 is outlining.

“The bill is trying to make it seem like we’re strippers and go-go dancers and we’re not. Drag has been around for years,” said Mancell.

Senate bill 3, drafted by Republican senators, would criminalize public ‘adult cabaret’ performances that can be seen by children.

Tennessee Majority Leader Jack Johnson, who filed the legislation, said “I filed this legislation to protect children. There are certain performances, movies, and places that are inappropriate for children. Just as current law prohibits strip clubs from admitting children, this legislation would also prohibit sexually suggestive drag shows from being performed on public property, or on any non-age-restricted private property where a minor could be present.”

The bill says these shows include topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, and male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a sexual interest.

“There have been several reports of controversial drag shows in Tennessee where children were present,” Johnson said. “Many Tennesseans were concerned and had questions about the legality of certain sexually explicit performances. This bill clarifies the law so that it spells out what performances are not appropriate for children to be present at.”

But, Mancell said he wants to know who will decide when the line has been crossed?

“What form do you say Is wrong or right? How far are you gonna go with it?”

The bill says two offenses of this ‘crime’ could result in a felony charge.

Memphis State Senator Raumesh Akbari said she and the other Democrat caucus leaders were notified about this bill on Wednesday.

“I thought there’s so many serious issues that we’re facing as a state – literacy, making sure we have adequate criminal justice laws, really target violent crime in the state, and this is what we’re talking about?” Akbari said.

Akbari said this could just be a sign of things to come in the next legislative session.

“I think this bill being introduced the day after the election kind of gives us a preview of some of the social issues that the Rep majority is going to make a priority during the next legislative session,” she said.

The next legislative session kicks off in January.

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