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Tennessee City Seeks to Ban Drag Shows

Thursday Sep 21, 2017

The city council of a tiny city in Tennessee is considering a law that many locals hope will sashay away. According to a report by the Tennesseean, the city of Portland (located 40 miles outside of Nashville) poised to pass a law that will ban drag shows in the downtown area.

WSMV reports that the current law on the books in the city of 12,000 prohibits adult entertainment in the downtown business district. But a proposed ordinance would lump drag shows in with strippers.

The high drama started in August when Envy Bar in Portland presented Elite Production's first drag show.

"It's not just for the LGBT community. It's for straight people, it's for transgender people, it's for anybody. We want a place where everybody can come and feel like they can be themselves," said local drag performer Robert Guillermo.

According to the Tennesseean, the vote for the ordinance was to have taken place on Monday, has been rescheduled for November 6, in order to get a legal opinion from the state attorney general.

Prior to the vote, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee sent a letter to Portland's mayor and Board of Alderman on behalf of Elite Productions and Envy Bar. The letter in part read:

"Artistic expression is not sexual or erotic in nature simply because it involves male or female impersonators and, therefore, it cannot be regulated like 'adult-oriented businesses.'"

"The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression, no matter what you are wearing," said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director. "It's discriminatory and unconstitutional to single out male and female impersonators in a bid to shut down their speech. If members of the city council are uncomfortable with the drag show, they do not need to attend the performance. But they can't ban it."

"This community deserves to celebrate its diversity in any way it sees fit, according to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States," Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project told The Tennesseean. "You are celebrating all diversity by being here. And this community needs to see you, and they need to hear you, so let them hear your voice now."

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