NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — At least one Tennessee Republican appeared concerned about the unintended consequences of a bill that would put restrictions on where drag can be performed.
“Could there be anything more vague than ‘or similar entertainers?'” Rep. Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City) asked during a hearing on SB0003. “Can we remove that language or something?”
Campbell was joined by Democrats, a business owner and members of the LGBT community in wondering whether the bill meant to stop “adult cabaret” from happening in public spaces and or the view of children was too vague and would restrict other forms of entertainment.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson says the goal of the bill is to close a loophole that allowed acts that should only be taking place in specific venues from happening where children could see them.
“This is a common sense, safety bill for children,” Johnson said.
Johnson called some of the questions about his bill grossly mischaracterized the bill.
“Would you consider men in tights to fall under this?” Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knox) asked.
Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis) wondered if this would impact other forms of entertainment.
“When I think about concerts, WWE performances, people dress up in costumes and are pretty bear in their clothing,” Lamar said. “What are the unintended consequences of the bill?”
Business owner David Taylor wondered whether a party bus with drag queens “lip-syncing Tina Turner” would be charged under this bill.
“What else does this include? Does this include a group of birthday girls dressed like Elvis who decide to dance in the public street?” asked Taylor.
To these questions, Johnson replied, “I don’t know how I can be more clear, Mr. Chairman. This bill only deals with sexually explicit, sexually graphic entertainment.”
Tom Lee, an attorney for the Tennessee Pride Chamber, said the vagueness of the law makes it a potential target for litigation.
“Citizens have a right to know, is what I am about to do going to land me in prison?” he said.
He says it’ll come down to district attorneys and police to figure out if what they are seeing is obscene, which he says is hard considering drag performances have been lawful and happening for centuries.