The fate of a first-of-its-kind law restricting drag in Tennessee is now in the hands of a federal judge. Attorneys in a legal challenge to the new law delivered closing arguments Tuesday.
The suit was filed on behalf of a Memphis LGBTQ theater company. It alleges that the law is too vague and leaves all-ages drag shows in a legal gray area. Attorneys for the state have said that the plaintiff’s drag shows do not violate the law, but were unable to cite a scenario in which the legislation would apply outside existing indecency laws.
“Our clients are not required to rely on the good intentions of police officers,” says Melissa Stewart, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “If the law is vague, if it’s not clearly established that what the police officer is doing is unconstitutional, then that police officer is immune from suit. You can’t even sue them for false arrest, because it’s not clearly established that what they’re doing is illegal.”
If the drag restrictions are struck down, the state argues that it should only apply to Shelby County, and not to the rest of Tennessee.
A ruling in the case is expected after June 2, when Memphis will already be in the middle of its Pride festival.