(Mark Pellin, Headline USA) An activist LGBT theater troupe and leftist lawfare group won its challenge to topple a Tennessee state law that prevented drag queen shows from being used to groom children, when a federal judge ruled it was unconstitutional.
Calling the law “both unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled Friday that the Tennessee law gagged the free speech of drag queens acting as alleged performers.
WE WON! Judge Parker has declared Tennessee's anti-drag law unconstitutional! Friends of George's would like to thank Brice Timmons and Melissa Stewart at Donati Law and all who have stood by us during this fight! #standwithfriendsofgeorges #pride #dragisnotacrime pic.twitter.com/lrzN6tOHqt
— Friends of George's (@GeorgesShowtime) June 3, 2023
The state’s legislation, which was passed in March and slated to take effect next month, criminalized “adult cabaret entertainment” taking place in public or in the presence of minors. The law defined so-called cabaret performances as those featuring “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, [and] male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest.” Violators would be subject to class A misdemeanor charges with fines up to $2,500 and up to one year in prison. Repeat offenses would see charges escalate to a class E felony.
Landon Starbuck, whose credentials include being “an advocate for children harmed by child sexualization and exploitation,” argued in favor of the law in March, according to court documents.
The “early sexualization and exposure to explicit adult entertainment harms children” because it grooms them into “accepting adult sexual behavior as normal, healthy, and even celebrated while it encourages them to simulate and participate in high-risk sexual behaviors,” she said.
Starbuck shared with lawmakers an example of what she called “sexually charged entertainment” performed in front of children in shows marketed as “family friendly,” citing the “Boro Pride [that] recently happened in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.” During the event adult performers were “talking about their tits and rubbing their genitalia, grinding on the ground and spreading their legs in front of children.”
Those types of graphic “family-friendly” performances “normalizing the sexualization of children empowers child predators and increases the demand to exploit and sexually abuse children.”
In his ruling Friday, the Trump-appointed Parker wrote that “Tennessee has a compelling state interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, but Defendant has not met his burden of proving that the AEA is both narrowly tailored and the least restrictive means to advance Tennessee’s interest.”
Parker ruled that the law was passed “for the impermissible purpose of chilling constitutionally-protected speech.”
Examples presented during trial of such “constitutionally-protected speech” from drag queen shows performed at venues open to all-ages included an act called “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” that featured drag queens playing out the sexualized lyrics of the song “with each other behind a translucent curtain,” according to court records.
Other examples included a “skit from Drag Rocks involving Rod Stewart” that “involved a portrayal of sexual acts between two performers, one of whom was ‘wearing tight, tight black pants and he is . . . wearing a penis that is over exaggerated so the audience can see it’s there,’” court records informed.
“The second is a performance entitled ‘Bitch, You Stole My Purse,’ which is about a ‘lot lizard,’ and involved ‘blow jobs and possibly having sex as well as pooping in somebody’s purse,’” the court record continued.
“And the third is a skit entitled ‘Dick in a Box,’ which involved ‘two people presenting gift packages where their penises would be . . . penis is in a box, it’s got tissue around it. It’s really hard to see if it is [erect] or not.’”
In ruling the state law unconstitutional, Parker wrote that its “‘harmful to minors’ standard applies to minors of all ages, so it fails to provide fair notice of what is prohibited, and it encourages discriminatory enforcement. The AEA is substantially overbroad because it applies to public property or ‘anywhere’ a minor could be present.”
State officials have indicated they intend to consider an appeal of the ruling.