Tennessee could soon ban drag shows and other adult entertainment performances if the bill passes the state legislature. The bill that would ban go-go dancers, exotic dancers, and strippers on public property and for those under 18 was approved by the Tennessee House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on January 31, advancing it in the Tennessee House.
Representative Chris Todd of Madison County sponsored the bill (HB 0009). Todd says, "This is a common-sense child safety bill. There's confusion about what performances are covered. this clarifies what is cross the line that is harmful to minors." The bill intends to prohibit adult cabaret entertainment, including male or female impersonators who provide entertainment for prurient interest. The bill does not use the term "drag shows," yet it effectively bans them - or will if passed.
Conservative republicans contend that drag shows are sexualizing and even "grooming" children in an unnatural way. Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson of Williamson County introduced legislation around the end of 2022 limiting gender-care surgeries for minors. (He is the senate sponsor of the bill - SB 003.)
Johnson had told WZTV in November 2022, "We are not going to expose our children to this type of inappropriate, sexually explicit performances. We are going to pursue this legislation to make sure that our laws are consistent." Johnson said seeing the shows spring up in Chattanooga and other areas led him to "pursue this legislation to make sure that our laws are consistent," according to WZTV.
Dangers to minors
Exposure to adult cabaret shows can potentially be harmful to minors, as they often involve explicit sexual content and nudity. Minors may be exposed to material that is not appropriate for their age or development, and it could have a negative impact on their mental and emotional well-being.
Additionally, minors may be at risk of being exploited or trafficked if they attend or work at these shows, especially if the industry is unregulated or operates in the black market.
For these reasons, many jurisdictions regulate or restrict the attendance of minors at "adult cabaret shows," and may have laws in place to protect minors from exposure to explicit content and exploitation.
Potential issues with the bill
The bill’s critics say its ambiguity could lead to unintended consequences. Banning adult cabaret shows in public can lead to several potential problems, including:
- Economic impact: The ban can lead to the loss of jobs for performers and employees of the cabaret industry and financial losses for venue owners and other businesses associated with the industry.
- Constitutional issues: The ban could potentially be challenged on the grounds of freedom of expression and censorship.
- Black market growth: The ban may drive the industry underground and lead to the growth of a black market for adult cabaret shows, which can result in even less regulation and potentially harmful practices.
- Resistance and backlash: The ban may face resistance and backlash from individuals and communities who support the cabaret industry and see it as a legitimate form of expression.
- Difficulty in Enforcement: Enforcing a ban on adult cabaret shows can be challenging and may require significant resources, especially if the industry goes underground.
Overall, polling reveals the ban on adult cabaret shows could lead to a number of social, economic, and legal consequences that should be carefully considered before implementation.
The Senate version of the bill was recommended for passage on January 31, 2023, and sent to the Tennessee Senate to be placed on the calendar. The House version of the bill passed the subcommittee hearing and has been forwarded to the House Committee on Criminal Justice. It is scheduled to be taken up on February 7, 2023.
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