Governor Bill Lee (R-TN) signed one of the country’s most restrictive anti-drag bans into law on Thursday, despite criticism and backlash from LGBTQ advocates denouncing the legislation as harmful and discriminatory.
The Republican-controlled legislature ran roughshod over the democratic process, pushing through an amendment to the previously passed anti-transgender bill, Senate Bill 3 ,which now includes drag performances under a category reserved for adult businesses like strip clubs.
This inclusion will make appearing in public, or “anywhere where a minor could view it,” dressed in drag a criminal offense.
While first offenses will be charged as misdemeanors, subsequent violations will incur felony charges that could land a performer in prison for up to six years.
“The definitions of cabaret performances in the original draft of the bill include “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.” – Reason
Critics of the legislation voiced concerns that classifying drag shows as an “adult cabaret performance,” criminalizes will inevitably restrict the ability of members of the LGBTQ community who rely on performing to make a living will be adversely impacted.
With laws against obscenity already on the books, the Tennessee GOP’s attempts to deflect from their true intentions are transparent, and the addition of the anti-drag amendment solidifies that.
Before signing the bill, a photo surfaced of Gov. Lee dressed as a woman, surrounded by women dressed like men.
Though the black-and-white picture is obviously old, it doesn’t negate the perceived hypocrisy of the die-hard Republican’s actions.
The Tennessee Holler tweeted an exchange the progressive media outlet had with Lee, who appeared agitated at being asked about the 36-year-old year book photo.
“Do you remember dressing in drag in 1977? Is it only illegal when gay people do it? Tennessee Holler asked.
“Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious subject,” he responded according to the LGBTQ online magazine, the Advocate.
Gov. Lee was confronted with protests from the LGBTQ community and its allies while in Memphis for an event on Thursday that ended with the arrest of two peaceful protesters, according to Walter Murphy at local NBC affiliate Action News 5.
At a ribbon cutting for a Memphis YMCA, a man was removed from the event and detained after yelling “Drag is not a crime,” in the governor’s direction.
So much for free speech.
Man detained at YMCA opening in Whitehaven for yelling “Drag is not a crime” when @GovBillLee began speaking. pic.twitter.com/lS1cFWXd6v
— Walter Murphy (@WMurphyNews) March 1, 2023
S.B. 3 is slated to take effect on April 1st.
The battle for equal transgender and LGBTQ rights continues to be an uphill battle with the GOP committed to erasing the existence of an already marginalized population.
Governor Lee signing legislation that would have seen him arrested decades ago is peak Republican.
Drag for me, not for thee.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick