Human Rights Campaign Condemns Tennessee Senate for Passing Discriminatory Anti-Drag Bill

by HRC Staff

Nashville, Tennessee – Today, the Human Rights Campaign condemned the Tennessee Senate for passing Senate Bill 03, an anti-LGBTQ+ bill that would ban many drag performances from taking place on any public property in the state, as well as in any location where people under 18 could be present. This is one of three anti-drag bills currently moving through the Tennessee legislature. House Bill 09 is the companion bill moving through the House and House Bill 30 goes even further by requiring all drag performances to obtain a permit.

The dangerous practice of banning LGBTQ+ events, spaces, and culture – including drag performances – is part of a large-scale attack on the LGBTQ+ community and an attempt to put LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender and non-binary people, back in the closet and labeled as dangerous.

Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow released the following statement:

“Drag is a longstanding tradition of entertainment. Yet, radical politicians who know that there is a difference between age appropriate drag story hours at a library and dancers at a strip club would rather peddle misinformation than dedicate their time and effort to the real problems Tennesseans are facing. Targeting drag performances is just another means of spreading anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda to rile up an extremist base - a strategy we know leads to violence against LGBTQ+ people, and especially against nonbinary and transgender people. We urge the Tennessee House to reject this discriminatory bill.”

Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders released the following statement:

“After a summer and fall in which extremist groups engaged in intimidation campaigns at drag events around the state, our Senate failed the Tennessee people and the First Amendment tonight by siding with the bullies. Policing people's clothing by gender puts trans and non-binary people at risk. We urge the House of Representatives to think through the implications of this bill and hit the brakes.”

In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in state houses across the country introduced a record 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022. The majority of the discriminatory bills targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. Anti-transgender legislation took several forms, including bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity and bills to prevent transgender and non-binary youth from receiving life-saving, medically-necessary gender-affirming healthcare.

Nearly 1 in 5 of any type of hate crime is now motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias and the last two years have been the deadliest for transgender people, especially Black transgender women, we have seen since we began tracking fatal violence against the community. Reports of violence and intimidation against LGBTQ+ people have been making news across the country – with white nationalists targeting a Pride event in Idaho and Proud Boys crashing Drag Queen story hours at local libraries to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs. Finally, anti-LGBTQ+ stigma also drives alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, but LGBTQ+ youth who have at least one accepting adult in their life were 40% less likely to attempt suicide.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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