Attorney General Steve Marshall has joined 18 other attorneys general in support of Tennessee's "Adult Entertainment Act," which prohibits adult performances, including "male and female impersonators," from performing in public where children could be present.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed the law in March, but in June, Trump-appointed federal Judge Thomas Parker placed an injunction on it, preventing it from taking effect. Parker claimed the law violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"The word 'drag' never appears in the text of the AEA," Parker wrote in his opinion. "But the Court cannot escape that 'drag' was the one common thread in all three specific examples of conduct that was considered 'harmful to minors,' in the legislative transcript."
A brief submitted to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, led by South Carolina and joined by Marshall and others, argues that Parker's rule was erroneous.
"The district court disregarded decades of precedent that respects the role of legislatures—and state legislatures in particular—in shaping public policy," the brief reads. "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."
Marshall echoed the sentiments of the brief, claiming the district court acted contrary to Supreme Court precedent.
"There is nothing unconstitutional about a State protecting children from sexually explicit performances," Marshall said. "Tennessee's law is like many other longstanding laws that currently govern adult establishments. Contrary to Supreme Court precedent, the district court here was quick to attribute improper intentions to the Tennessee Legislature despite them having obvious and legitimate grounds to implement the law. That approach allows judges to stop the enforcement of laws they believe to be bad policy, and this undermines our system of self-government."
The Alabama Legislature introduced a similar bill in the 2023 regular session but never received committee deliberation. However, lawmakers say it will make a reappearance in 2024.
A ruling in Tennessee could dictate how any bill passed in Alabama could or could not be enforced.
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