Tennessee says ‘no’ to drag

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Tennessee becomes first US state to ban drag performances in chilling attack on LGBTQ+ rights.

Tennessee governor Bill Lee has signed an anti-drag bill into law, effectively banning public performances in the state.

The Republican signed Senate Bill 3 on Thursday (2 March). It effectively bans drag and vaguely defined “adult cabaret” performances by making it a felony to present one in a location that could be accessed by anyone under the age of 18.

The bill defines “adult cabaret performance” as productions that “feature male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to prurient interests”.

Not only does this ban public drag but it could also make pantomime, some Shakespeare productions, and even Pride, illegal in the state.

Those found guilty of breaching the law face a fine of up to $2,500 (about £2,100) and nearly a year in jail.

The bill, which also describes drag performances as “harmful to minors,” is the first of its kind to be enacted in the US.

Several similar bills around the country have been proposed or are undergoing legal processes on the way to becoming law.

More than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including those that target drag, have been proposed since the beginning of the year.

Even more are expected to flood in over the next few months, while others that ban gender-affirming care or restrict LGBTQ+ freedoms are being debated.

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