TN Senate Bill 3/House Bill 9
BLUF: Would Senator Roberts be upset if drag queens were teaching firearm safety or prepping, instead of reading to kids?
SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 7-51-1401, is amended by adding
the following language as a new subdivision:
“Adult cabaret performance” means a performance in a location other than an
adult cabaret that features topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers,
male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient
interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration;
SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 7-51-1407, is amended by adding
the following language as a new subsection:
(1) It is an offense for a person to engage in an adult cabaret
(A) On public property; or
(B) In a location where the adult cabaret performance could be
viewed by a person who is not an adult.
Awa has talked about the law of unintended consequences on several occasions. We all understand, too clearly, just how laws can “drift” unless thoroughly vetted for good language. The above is an example of a law which is horrific in its language. When you go to read the entire section of this law (Tennessee Senate Bill 3), as this now reads, it drips unintended consequences.
I understand what the purpose of the law was. They wanted to stop the whole “drag queens reading to kids” thing. I’m going to admit, I really don’t know why. Senator Roberts says it’s to stop kids seeing obscene things. Until Senator Roberts is also going after most of evening television and pretty much all movies these days, I don’t see that it has much reality to it. To make a law to stop only one specific type of performance, without addressing obscenity at all, seems disingenuous.
If the problem is that men in women’s clothing doing non-sexual things is in and of itself overly provocative, then we’ve got to outlaw judges’ robes, graduation robes, kilts, sarongs, and any number of other items which I’m morally certain were not intended to be included in this. Why, you ask? Because you can’t find a legal definition that draws a difference between a man in a dress, and a man in a kilt, without getting into legal messes like “well it’s cultural”.
If the problem is people doing sexual things in front of kids, we already have laws to stop that. If there are people in outlandish clothing doing sexual things in front of kids (and cameras, and parents, and librarians), then why hasn’t someone reported it? I’ve heard of men dressed as women reading to kids, but nothing sexual or perverted (even by my own obscenely low standards). Now, I have heard of so-called trans kids abusing and allegedly raping girls in the school bathroom, and that’s definitely Not Right by any means, but it’s not the same thing, and that’s not what the law appears to be about.
The thing is, the above is NOT the problem. The problem is that some people have gotten their panties in a wad over the idea of men dressing up in women’s clothing to entertain kids under some VERY specific circumstances. Since they can’t figure out how to make a law that stops that type of entertainment, they’re creating bad laws that have unintended consequences galore.
Under the current law, Klinger from MASH would be outlawed. The movies Tootsie, Dumplin’, Some Like It Hot, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Victor Victoria, Mrs. Doubtfire, half of Shakespeare’s plays (if done with gender roles as they “should be today”… ALL of Shakespeare’s plays if done as they were done at the time), Yankee Doodle in Berlin, Bringing Up Baby, I Was A Male War Bride, La Cage Aux Folles, Yentl, To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, and dozens (if not hundreds) more can’t be played in a public theater or performed as plays. Most of British comedy shows are right out. Half the cosplays (female Malcolm Reynolds, for instance) are gone. Bob Hope must be rolling in his grave.
Let me be clear. If someone is grooming or diddling little girls and boys, that person should be shot, drawn and quartered, covered in honey, and left on a hill of fire ants. Every single groomer and diddler I’ve met so far has purported to be a straight male and has been vehemently against all things not “hetero normative”, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some drag performers out there who are perverts. And if they are, they should be prosecuted. Or handed over to the parents, cousins, uncles and aunts, etc. I’m good with either.
But that’s not what I’m seeing. I’m seeing a group of politicos getting upset because people in more swag and satin than most women can handle are managing to entertain kids. I’m not sure how they got from that, to “every drag performer is a groomer”, but that’s happened somewhere. It smacks of the same stuff I heard in the 80s, about how “every gay man was after young boys”, and “Dungeons and Dragons will make your kids into immoral wretches who do drugs and cause destruction and rapine”, and we all know those were outright lies.
So what is the point of the law? The purpose is to restrict performances and free speech. Admittedly, it’s speech and performance art that the senators in question find offensive, but we’ve established time and time again on GFZ that personal offense is NOT a good enough reason to enact a law.
Since you can’t enact the law as currently written, without interfering with the art above, without inadvertently making it illegal for women to wear pants and men to wear kilts, I think I can safely say that this is a bad law. The attempt to stop the behavior that some senators dislike MUST be centered in Constitutionally correct mindset, or it is bad. This law is not Constitutional.
The First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The above law specifically abridges (infringes) upon the freedom of speech. Worse, it attempts to make a certain class of people illegal. It’s okay to not LIKE them. But they do have the right to exist.
Let’s not forget the Ninth Amendment:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
And of course the Fourteenth:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Everyone knows the Second. A lot know the First (or think they do). But these others seem to be forgotten, at times. In what way is this Tennessee law not abridging (infringing) upon the privileges of citizens? Is it not indeed depriving an entire class of people of life and liberty?
I don’t have to like men (or women, though the senators seem to have little or no problem with THAT) in drag. Whether I do or not doesn’t bear on this at all. It is the law itself that is unconstitutional, by its very nature. I get that a bunch of people really don’t like drag story time. By all means, don’t let your kids and grandkids go. Keep them home, and read to them yourselves! Frankly, if enough of us were reading to our kids at home, it probably wouldn’t have become an issue to begin with.
But don’t make up laws that pretend to protect children when that is not the result, intended or otherwise. That’s just not cool. It’s just as “not cool” as playing word games to restrict (infringe) upon the right to keep and bear arms.
I believe in keeping people I don’t like out in clear sight. Let’s take Nazis and people claiming to be such. I don’t want to ban them. Beyond being unconstitutional to do so, it also doesn’t actually achieve anything. It simply pushes them underground, where I can’t keep an eye on them. I want them to feel comfortable enough that they make mistakes that they CAN be prosecuted for, thank you very much.