Tennessee Can’t Drag These Queens Down

After many battles, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee was successful in defending and protecting Elite Productions and their widely popular and appreciated drag shows. These shows are protected by the First Amendment as they are artistic expressions and are not sexual or erotic in nature. It looks like the drag queens of Portland, Tennessee won’t be overthrown today.

Since August, a war of some sorts has been dragging out in Portland, Tennessee. The town’s alderman has been persistent and gone through great depths to ban drag shows in the town, even after many successful and popular shows had occurred. The town alderman had gotten away with this ban for a little while as he and many board members classified it as “adult cabaret.” They argued the shows were erotic in nature and a form of “adult-oriented” business practices.

The ACLU of Tennessee won this First Amendment battle on November 20th when the town ordinance passed. Elite Productions will ultimately be able to continue as the ordinance defined “adult cabaret” as a business that offers erotic entertainment with the performers exposing certain anatomical areas. Elite Productions do not violate this ordinance as they do not fit the criteria.

Under the First Amendment, all speech is protected except for fighting words, direct incitement, libel, some commercial speech, child pornography and obscenity. The town alderman was challenging the drag shows as obscene material. Obscene material is defined through Miller v California (1943) as: material where the average person, applying contemporary [local] community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, whether the work depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary value. As the ACLU of Tennessee pointed out, these drag shows are entirely artistic expression and are not inherently sexual. Because of this, the drag shows and Elite Productions are not considered obscene material and will enjoy their First Amendment protections.

Drag has a long history, officially being called "drag" since the 1800s. Although it's primarily performed by men, all genders and sexualities can and do participate. Drag is done for many reasons and varies for each performer. Some perform for fetishes, spirituality, as an act of entertainment and expression, self-exploration and many more reasons. All in all, drag is a cultural and creative performance and did not deserve to be attacked by this town alderman. 

Had the alderman, a politician, known and understood the most basic of fundamental rights, and understood that drag is an artistic expression and protected by the First Amendment, the town would have saved quite a bit of money. The town alderman used taxpayer dollars to fight this ordinance for months, and people are rightfully furious. Others are upset as they feel the alderman was targeting a group of people, when the town has annual shows in the high school and community where men dress up as women for fundraisers. It’s interesting to note that the alderman had strong opinions about the content of Elite Productions’ drag shows, though he never once attended one.

This proves that haters are gonna hate, but the First Amendment came in clutch and had this community's back.

 If you would like more information on the story, the ACLU or want to know where to donate you can check out their website here.

Photos: Cover, GIF#1, GIF#2