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Tennessee town drops ban on drag shows after criticism

Tennessee town drops ban on drag shows after criticism

Elite Productions' drag show team in Tennessee

After receiving much criticism, the town of Portland, Tennessee dropped its ban on drag shows.

In September, the town voted unanimously to ban the shows, a creative space for LGBTQ people.

Ordinance No. 17-59 banned ‘adult content’, including ‘male or female impersonators’, from commercial districts. Many performers and groups quickly fought back against the town’s new rule.

It came after Envy Bar and Grill hosted a drag show by Elite Productions on 12 August, the first show of its kind in the town’s history.

The town then dropped it and proposed another ordinance — No. 17-75. This one focused on ‘sexually oriented’ businesses. However, drag shows continued to fall under this umbrella.

The ACLU fights back

Following these events, the ACLU stepped in on behalf of Elite and Envy.

In a letter written by staff attorney Mandy Strickland Floyd, the organization found the ordinances raised ‘serious First Amendment freedom of speech concerns’.

Ultimately, the ACLU found the town’s rulings too broad and unconstitutional.

On Monday (20 November), the town revised the ordinance, instead adopting the definition of ‘adult cabaret’.

‘We are pleased that the ordinance that passed is in line with the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and artistic expression regardless of what someone is wearing,’ commented Floyd. ‘Our clients can now continue performing without government interference.’

However, the ACLU stresses they will continue to closely monitor the situation ‘to ensure that the city does not attempt to inappropriately regulate our clients’ shows under this new ordinance in the future’.