A Shout Out to Stellar Legal Teams; A Call Out for Voters to Take Action
Let’s pause for a moment, a week into Pride month, to cheer victories for LGBTQ people, youth and families, their legal advisers, and for equal justice under law.
Late Friday, June 2, U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker issued a 70-page ruling striking down Tennessee’s drag ban, noting it “reeks with constitutional maladies of vagueness and overbreadth” and violates the First Amendment.
And just like that, drag remains legal in Tennessee pic.twitter.com/pa9t5brrDL
— Melissa Stewart (@LissaJoStewart) June 3, 2023
The law, passed and signed in February, never went into effect as it was challenged by Friends of George’s Theatre Company, a Memphis-based nonprofit that produces and performs original theatrical content featuring drag-centric performances. The law would have made it a criminal offense for a person to perform so-called “adult cabaret entertainment” either on public property or in a location where it could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.
Parker ruled the law was UNCONSTITUTIONAL – typed out in all caps, “on the freedom of speech… The Tennessee General Assembly can certainly use its mandate to pass laws that their communities demand, but that mandate as to speech is limited by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which commands that laws infringing on the Freedom of Speech must be narrow and well-defined. The [Adult Entertainment Act] is neither.”
Parker found the new law to be substantially overbroad, and that it could be struck down in entirety. Parker is an appointee of former President Donald Trump.
(⚠️ WARNING —STROBING) 🏳️🌈🎉WATCH: “The news just broke… the drag ban in Tennessee has been overturned!!”
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) June 5, 2023
Friends of George’s legal counsel, Brice Timmons, told Billboard he got the news while at the Big Gay Dance Party in Memphis.
“The DJ just stopped the music, the announcer came up onto the stage and just yelled, ‘We won!’ Yeah, that was a high point of my career,” Timmons told Billboard.
“It was a ruling that called the state on the carpet for every aspect of the law’s unconstitutionality… [it] has not been very challenging legal analysis — it’s just a new generation of bigots trying the same old tricks.”
“This win represents a triumph over hate,” Friends of George’s told GLAAD.
“Our first amendment rights were affirmed as drag artists and makers of theatre. Similar to the countless battles the LGBTQ+ community has faced over the last several decades, our collective success relies upon everyone speaking out and taking a stand against bigotry,” they continued.
Read more about Friends of George’s in this fun profile in them.
“This victory for drag artists in Tennessee would not have happened if not for unwavering allies standing up for us. Friends of George’s expresses our heartfelt thanks to our passionate legal team, our longtime fans, and to everyone across the country who heard about our fight and wanted to help. While today is a moment worth celebrating as we kick off Pride month, our work is not finished. As the onslaught of hatred against the LGBTQ+ community continues around the country through the passage of anti-trans, homophobic, and draconian laws that seek to silence expression and identity, we will remain vocal and vigilant. Friends of George’s will keep making campy theatre, will keep raising money for charitable causes, and will keep advocating for the inclusivity and visibility of the queer community at large.”
“Every anti-LGBTQ elected official is on notice that these baseless laws will not stand and that our constitutional freedom of speech and expression protects everyone and propels our culture forward,” said GLAAD President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis.
“Congratulations and thank you to Friends of George’s and their attorneys for speaking up and fighting for everyone’s freedom,” Ellis continued. “Their bravery will inspire many other challenges to discrimination.”
Photo Credit: Friends of George’s
Timmons told Billboard he was headed next to Florida to argue as lead counsel against that state’s new drag ban, on behalf of Hamburger Mary’s, and assisting teams in Montana and Texas too.
“[The Tennessee ruling] was the first thing that the judge here in Florida asked about during the hearing today,” he says. “It seems like Judge Parker’s ruling is going to be, you know, a guide for how other courts will address this.”
Federal judge stops enforcement of Florida’s transgender care bans for some parents https://t.co/vgJsvgQKXh
— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) June 6, 2023
Meanwhile Monday in Florida, a federal court ruled in favor of families who sued the state for its ban on essential medical care for transgender youth. The preliminary injunction notes Florida’s ban is unconstitutional and halts enforcement, allowing healthcare providers throughout Florida to provide medically needed care to trans youth without being subject to professional discipline or criminal prosecution while the case proceeds.
The lawsuit, brought by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Human Rights Campaign, challenges the Florida Boards of Medicine rules against trans healthcare and a recently enacted statute that codified the ban for minors and prevented trans adults from obtaining care as well.
Seven families with transgender children filed the lawsuit, including a military family who moved to a U.S. Navy station in Florida.
“Like most parents, my husband and I want nothing more than for our daughter to be healthy, happy, and safe,” said the parent of an 11-year-old transgender girl.
“Being able to consult with our team of doctors to understand what our daughter is experiencing and make the best, most informed decisions about her care has been critically important for our family. She is a happy, confident child, but this ban takes away our right to provide her with the next step in her recommended treatment when she reaches puberty. The military doctors we work with understand the importance of providing that evidence-based, individualized care. We’re proud to serve our country, but we are being treated differently than other military families because of a decision by politicians in the state where we are stationed. We have no choice but to fight this ban to protect our daughter’s physical and mental health.”
This week a judge blocked enforcement of FL's cruel bans on medically-necessary care for #trans children.
— NCLR – National Center for Lesbian Rights (@NCLRights) June 8, 2023
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle called Florida’s rule “an exercise in politics, not in good medicine.”
“The plaintiffs’ adolescent children will suffer irreparable harm — the unwanted and irreversible onset and progression of puberty in their natal sex — if they do not promptly begin treatment with GnRH agonists,” Hinkle wrote.
The judge wrote the "unspoken suggestion running just below the surface" in the ban is that the defendants believe "transgender identity is not real, that it is made up." https://t.co/RFP1c5dZqp
— Tallahassee Democrat (@TDOnline) June 6, 2023
“The treatment will affect the patients themselves, nobody else, and will cause the defendants no harm. The preliminary injunction will be consistent with, not adverse to, the public interest. Adherence to the Constitution is always in the public interest,” Hinkle wrote. Hinkle was appointed by former President Bill Clinton.
“This policy came about through a political process with a predetermined conclusion, and it stands in direct contrast to the overwhelming weight of the evidence and science,” said Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights Initiative, Southern Legal Counsel.
“There is an unbelievable degree of hypocrisy when a state that holds itself out as being deeply concerned with protecting ‘parents’ rights’ strips parents of their right to ensure their children receive appropriate medical care.”
Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel just delivered powerful testimony in opposition to these proposed rules restricting gender-affirming care for trans youth.
"Stripping them of care harms them,"
Thank you, Simone! pic.twitter.com/VDiUMgY5n0
— Equality Florida (@equalityfl) February 10, 2023
Florida’s troubles bubbled again on Thursday as The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Black voters in Alabama.
The justices found the Voting Rights Act was likely violated by Alabama’s congressional map that created only one district with a majority Black population. More than one in four voters in Alabama is Black.
BREAKING: The Supreme Court just ruled that Alabama's 2021-enacted congressional map violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it diluted Black political power.
Alabama must now redraw its congressional map.
— ACLU (@ACLU) June 8, 2023
Florida is facing similar lawsuits after a new map pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis eliminated a district in North Florida represented by a Black Democrat.
An executive for one of the groups suing Florida said the Supreme Court clearly signaled in their ruling that the “Voting Rights Act is not dead.” https://t.co/efW32XAM8l
— Tallahassee Democrat (@TDOnline) June 8, 2023
Texas managed to neutralize two of its most virulent anti-LGBTQ politicians in the last month.
Rep. Byron Slaton resigned on the eve of being expelled from the Texas statehouse. Slaton, who is 45 years old and married, was investigated for providing alcohol to a 19-year-old aide and having unprotected sex with her while she could not consent.
The Texas Tribune reported: “Slaton was among the most socially conservative lawmakers in the chamber and had been one of this session’s loudest voices for cracking down on drag shows and decrying drag artists as “groomers” who want to sexualize kids.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton was impeached by the Texas House of Representatives and suspended from duty on charges of bribery and abuse of office.
Paxton’s record of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policy includes issuing an order in February 2022 to baselessly investigate families of transgender children for providing best practice, evidence-based healthcare.
Families of trans youth in Texas took time to drink in the news of Paxton’s impeachment.
“After seeing him torment my family for 8 years,” Amber Briggle wrote, “I will unapologetically celebrate all weekend.”
Straighten your crown and #treatyoself. Ken Paxton – one of my son's biggest bullies – just got impeached by his own party (121-23-2!). After seeing him torment my family for 8 years, I will 💯 unapologetically celebrate all weekend.#ProtectTransKids #NobodyLikesADouchecanoe https://t.co/iPHxZHTxOv
— Amber Briggle (she/they) (@mrsbriggle) May 27, 2023
Here’s to the families, the performers, the legal teams, the advocates who pushed back against extremists and expanded freedom a bit more for all of us. Voters can do them one better: retire anti-LGBTQ politicians before they propose disastrous policy to be challenged in court. Happy Pride!