Trump-appointed judge rules law banning drag shows for kids ‘unconstitutionally vague’

News & Politics

A federal judge says Tennessee’s law banning adult cabaret performances in public or in the presence of minors is unconstitutional, NPR reported.

“The Court finds that — despite Tennessee’s compelling interest in protecting the psychological and physical wellbeing of children — the Adult Entertainment Act (‘ACA’) is an unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of speech,” wrote United States District Judge Thomas L. Parker in the 70-page opinion.

Judge Parker took issue with the first-of-its-kind law, calling it “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad.”

The law, which Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed in March, criminalizes “adult cabaret entertainment” in public or where it could be viewed by children, according to the Hill. The law does not contain the word “drag.”

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The law defined “adult cabaret entertainment” as “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors, as such term is defined under present law; feature go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators, or similar entertainers; and include a single performance or multiple performances by an entertainer.”

The law provides further definition of “harmful to minors” as “that quality of any description or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual excitement, sexual conduct, excess violence, or sadomasochistic abuse.”

The judge wrote that the law was “passed for the impermissible purpose of chilling constitutionally-protected speech,” adding that the state did not meet its burden to ensure the law was “narrowly tailored and the least restrictive means to advance Tennessee’s interest.”

“The Court concludes that the AEA is both unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad. The AEA’s ‘harmful to minors’ standard applies to all ages, so it fails to provide fair notice of what is prohibited, and it encourages discriminatory enforcement. The AEA is substantially overbroad because it applies to public property or ‘anywhere’ a minor could be present,” Judge Parker wrote.

Plaintiff Friends of George’s, Inc, a nonprofit, brought the suit. The group produces “drag-centric performances, comedy sketches, and plays,” according to the judge’s ruling, as reported in the Washington Post.

Judge Parker of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee was nominated by former President Donald Trump (R) July 2017 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate January 2018 98-0, according to Ballotpedia.

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti is expected to appeal the ruling “at the appropriate time,” according to the Washington Post.

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