Judicial Activism: Tennessee Drag Show Law Overturned

In another display of federal judicial overreach, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Parker, a 2017 Trump appointee, declared Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation law regulating drag shows in front of minors unconstitutional. The Adult Entertainment Act was set to ensure children’s psychological and physical well-being. Instead, it’s now thwarted by the judicial hand of activism, a scenario alarmingly familiar to conservative voters and legislators.

Judge Parker’s 70-page ruling denounced the law as an “unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of speech,” purportedly vague and overbroad, encouraging “discriminatory enforcement.” The law clearly defined boundaries, barring adult cabaret performances from public spaces or areas where minors might be present. Infractors faced misdemeanor charges, escalating to felonies for repeat offenses.

Tennessee lawmakers, upholding the will of their constituents, enacted the bill earlier this year. The legislation classified “male and female impersonators” as adult cabaret performers, banning performances potentially harmful to minors. Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill into law in March. Nevertheless, this victory for common sense was stalled by the partisan intervention of Judge Parker.

Interestingly, a Memphis-based theater group, Friends of George’s, hailed the ruling as a “triumph over hate.” This stance seems dismissive of legitimate concerns parents and citizens harbor regarding the content their children are exposed to. GLAAD, a prominent LGBT advocacy group, commended the judgment. CEO Sarah Kate Ellis declared a somewhat aggressive stance that “every anti-LGBTQ elected official is on notice.”

Judge Parker’s ruling laid out a vague distinction between “obscene” in the vernacular and “obscene” under the law. However, the matter at hand isn’t about mere semantics. Instead, it’s about shielding our children from adult-oriented performances until they are of age to understand and contextualize such displays fully.

The lawsuit from Friends of George’s, who focus on “drag-centric performances, comedy sketches, and plays” with no age restrictions, precipitated the ruling. Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, a bill sponsor, dubbed the ruling “perplexing,” expressing hope for an appeal. His astute observation encapsulates the conservative sentiment: “Sadly, this ruling is a victory for those who support exposing children” to age-inappropriate entertainment.

Parker’s opinion revolved around hypothetical examples, like a woman dressing as Elvis potentially violating the law. However, the law’s intention was to safeguard minors against adult-oriented performances, not to stifle creative expression.

This decision is a glaring example of the conflict between parental rights, public morality, and judicial interpretation of free speech. The line between artistic expression and content unsuitable for minors remains blurred. The ruling, seen as a triumph by some, is to others an overstep of federal authority, disregarding local legislative action and a cavalier dismissal of parental concerns.