Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill banning drag shows in public on Thursday, sending the measure to the Republican Governor Bill Lee’s desk.
The law would make Tennessee the first state to ban public drag, which could also affect LGBTQ+ pride celebrations and transgender people who are in shows of any kind. There are currently 20 bills in 15 US states aimed at drag queen performances.
It’s well-documented in economic literature that discrimination against LGBTQ+ people damages their economic, physical, and mental well-being. Additionally, discriminatory bills like the one in Tennessee can lower a nation’s GDP.
In past years, bills in other states that targeted transgender people prompted strong negative reaction from business leaders, out of concern that discriminatory legislation would make it more difficult to woo clients, talent and corporate relocations.
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Several of the US’ largest corporations have decried the recent legislation as an attempt to erase protections for transgender people. (It’s unclear if any companies have donated money to stop the bills).
In Tennessee’s bill, a first offense would be treated as a misdemeanor, but a second offense would be treated as a felony.
Erin Reed, a queer legislative researcher and transgender rights activist, said the language of the bill is very broad and doesn’t differentiate between trans people and drag performers. The bill says “male and female impersonators” cannot “provide entertainment that appeals to prurient interest.”
“Drag queen story hours will no longer be rushed by proud boys, but cops,” Reed said on Twitter.