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Tennessee House passes bill that would ban drag shows on public property

The bill will now head to Gov. Bill Lee's desk where he has the option to sign it into law.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A bill that makes it a criminal offense to engage in an adult cabaret performance on public property, specifically in the view of minors, passed the Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 23. 

The bill will now head to Gov. Bill Lee's desk where he has the option to sign it into law. 

The bill, HB0009, passed by a vote of 74-19. The Senate version of the bill, SB0003, passed on Feb. 9 by a 26-6 vote.

The first offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, with all subsequent violations treated as a Class E felony. 

The bill, if signed, would update existing laws regarding adult cabaret performances that regulate things like strip shows to more strongly target drag shows in the state and limit the kinds of venues they can be performed in. It also expands the definition to ensure any sort of drag performance would be considered an "adult cabaret performance."

Currently, the existing Tennessee law already considers "male or female impersonators" as a form of adult cabaret performance. The bill adds more specificity to the definition to include, "male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration."

On top of expanding the definition, the bill would make it illegal for any sort of adult cabaret performance to be held on public property or "in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult." It also prevents cities or counties from adopting or upholding existing local ordinances or regulations that conflict with the state's law.

Private establishments such as bars and restaurants could host such shows, but it would require them to check IDs to ensure patrons are 18 and older. 

The House also passed bill HB 0001 on Thursday, Feb. 23. That bill would ban some gender-affirming care for minors, such as puberty blockers or surgery.

Both HB 0001 and HB 0009 were introduced by Senator Jack Johnson (R - Franklin). 

"The House took life-saving healthcare options away from trans youth and their families and ignored the 1st Amendment by passing HB1 and HB9. Almost 300 organizations, congregations, businesses have spoken out against them. Governor Lee should veto them," The Tennessee Equality Project tweeted in response to both bills passing the House.


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