March 13, 2023
The New York County Lawyers Association strenuously opposes the spate of recent legislation around the country forbidding drag performances as unconstitutional assaults on the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people.
A recent wave of legislation across a number of states has sought to criminalize drag performances as “harmful to minors.” Last week, Tennessee enacted a law forbidding “adult cabaret” performers, including “male or female impersonators,” from public property or anywhere else a minor could see the performances. At least a dozen other states, including Arizona, Texas, and Missouri, have introduced similar legislation – all citing the potential harm to minors as their rationale.
Not only will these laws chill a rich and vibrant part of LGBTQ culture, but they also introduce a slippery slope of criminalizing transgender and other gender non-conforming individuals from performing on any stage, attending arts events, patronizing bars and other nightlife establishments, or simply going about their daily lives. These laws will also reinforce the stereotype of LGBTQ people as child predators – as well as endanger the safety and mental health of young LGBTQ people who may be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity. These laws also would do great violence to drag performers’ First Amendment right of expression.
NYCLA thus condemns these laws and all other state actions that seek to chill LGBTQ-related speech and expression because those laws reinforce insidious stereotypes about LGBTQ people, endanger LGBTQ lives, and defy the First Amendment.