(Attorney General’s Office Press Release, September 11, 2023)
Boise, ID – Attorney General Raúl Labrador joined an 18-state coalition in support of Tennessee’s defense of its Adult Entertainment Act (AEA), protecting minors from lewd and obscene behavior. A district court incorrectly ruled against the law, and Attorney General Wilson is leading this effort to support the appeal of that initial ruling.
Contrary to what its critics say, the law does not ban drag shows. By its own terms, the AEA applies only to certain forms of adult entertainment that are sexual or explicit performances, and the law does not even ban those performances. It simply requires this type of adult entertainment to occur in adult-only zones and prohibits such entertainment on public property.
“It is the opinion of my office that the District Court in Tennessee made a significant error in ruling against the AEA. The Court misrepresented the law as a way to rule against it. Tennessee does not ban drag shows as it suggests but merely requires such acts to not occur around children, similar to other types of dance. The statute primarily prohibits indecent performances featuring nudity and sexually explicit content. We have a moral and legal obligation to ensure this ruling does not stand. I am proud to join other Attorneys General in appealing this wrong decision,” Attorney General Labrador said.
The statute prohibits performances that include “nudity, sexual excitement, sexual conduct, excess violence or sadomasochistic abuse” that “appeal[s] predominantly to prurient, shameful or morbid interests of minors,” in a “patently offensive” way that “lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.” This law imposes the same restrictions on drag performers as any other sexually explicit performances, based on longstanding laws with adult establishments. Simply, a drag entertainer can’t perform sexually explicit performances at a library, or anywhere else where children may be present. The same rules apply for an exotic dancer or anyone else.
The amicus brief states, “… The district court disregarded decades of precedent that respects the role of legislatures—and state legislatures in particular—in shaping public policy. The Tennessee legislature did not act with an impermissible purpose, and the Court’s holding to the contrary undermines basic principles of separation of powers. The judgment of the district court should be reversed.”
Attorney General Labrador joined Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia on the amicus brief led by South Carolina.
The full brief can be read here.