Tennessee Enacts Nation’s First Law Restricting Drag Shows


Rolling Stone

TENNESSEE BECAME THE first state in the country to restrict public drag performances on Thursday. Republican Gov. Bill Lee also signed legislation banning minors from receiving gender-affirming care and prohibiting surgeries and hormone treatments for transgender youth.

The Republican governor, who appeared in drag in a 1977 high-school yearbook photo, promised to sign the measure, which restricts “adult cabaret entertainment” in public spaces or locations where it might be seen by minors. The vague term is defined as “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors” that is in line with existing obscenity law, but also “that feature topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators, or similar entertainers.” First-time violators will be slapped with a misdemeanor and repeat offenders will face felony charges.

Some in the legal profession question the ability of the new law to be enforced. Obscenity law already covers nudity and sexual conduct around minors, and no one seems to be aware of any past instance where a drag queen was cited for obscenity.

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Tennessee Gov. Supports Anti-Drag Bill But Apparently Once Posed in Drag

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he’ll sign a bill restricting drag shows into law — even though an old photo of him in drag has surfaced.

The photo is from the 1977 yearbook for Franklin High School in Tennessee. It shows a boy, apparently Lee, in a dress, an ornate hat, and a pearl necklace. The caption is “Hard Luck Woman.” He’s surrounded by girls in men’s suits. It was shared on Reddit over the weekend.

Lee and his aides don’t deny that’s him in the picture, but they say there’s no comparison between his costume and the drag performances that House Bill 9 and Senate Bill 3 are seeking to restrict.