NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Thursday morning, a bill to potentially criminalize certain drag shows took another major step to becoming law in Tennessee, as it passed the Senate on a party-line vote.
It didn’t go without argument.
“This law applies everywhere in our state and puts citizens in a place of calling police, calling prosecutors anytime they think someone isn’t raising their kids right,” Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) said.
Republicans contend the bill is about protecting children, not an attack on the LGBTQ+ community.
“For somebody to make it an attack on a certain group of people is not what it’s about,” Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) said.
The bill would outlaw any performance law enforcement deems “prurient.” Democrats pressed Republican leadership on that basis in the Senate session, arguing this potential law is too vague in its definition.
“Are they doing something that is defined in our statute as harmful to a minor?” Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said. “Are they doing something that involves nudity, sexual excitement, sexual conduct, excess violence or sadomasochistic abuse?”
Democrats also argued it’s an inefficient bill as federal law already outlaws obscenity; plus, they said it enables violent behavior.
“Apparent and obscene behavior is already covered under federal law,” Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) said. “I’m sure that most of us also saw the self-proclaimed Nazis that were protesting drag shows. Is that who we want to align ourselves with?”
Still, the bill passed easily, 26-6 (Lt. Gov. McNally (R-Oak Ridge) was not present during the vote) as Republicans hold a supermajority in the Senate.
The House bill now rests in the House Criminal Justice Committee, where it’s scheduled to be discussed Tuesday evening. It’s widely expected to pass easily there, too, before going through the same process on the House floor.