NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – A bill that would prohibit “adult cabaret performances” from occurring in public spaces has passed the Tennessee House of Representatives.
House Bill 9 and Senate Bill 3 would ban those performances from public property or in a location where they could be viewed by minors. The bill addresses performances like “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest.”
On Thursday, the House heard the bill as presented by its sponsor, Rep. Chris Todd (R-Madison County).
At several points during the discussion of the bill, Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton informed representatives that they were out of order either for speaking out of turn or clapping during statements.
Democrats of the House opposed the bill during the discussion. Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said the state already had obscenity laws. Rep. Torrey Harris (D-Memphis) said residents of his district host family-friendly events in the LGBTQ community and questioned if those events could be threatened.
Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis), Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville), Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) and Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) also challenged the bill. Jones said the bill was not really about protecting children and was rather targeting a group of people.
Clemmons asked Todd if the bill’s intended goal was to give district attorneys the ability to criminally charge performers like Beyonce if they remove any clothing during a performance.
Todd responded to Clemmons saying the bill was a common-sense bill. Clemmons answered by saying the bill takes direct aim at Nashville as Music City where performances are common, and he said the bill’s language was vague, too broad and would not hold up in court.
Todd said he was confident the bill could be easily defended by the state attorney general.
Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) referenced a Knox County drag show that he said had been planned as a family-friendly in December. Zachary said the show was deemed inappropriate and required filtering, and he agreed with Todd in saying the bill would protect children.
Rep. Gino Bulson (R-Brentwood) reread the bill’s definition of the performances and said it was clear that the bill specified what sort of events would be prohibited. Bulson said the bill was completely constitutional and that the bill was not born out of hate.
The bill passed as amended with 74 in favor and 19 against. News Channel 11 reached out to the office of Governor Bill Lee regarding the bill. A spokesperson for Lee said he intended to sign it when it came to his desk.
To read the wording of the bill, click here.