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A federal judge blocked a Tennessee district attorney from enforcing the state’s law shielding children from sexually explicit performances ahead of a “Pride” event after he was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The judge’s ruling comes after the ACLU filed a lawsuit this week against Blount County DA Ryan Desmond, who sent a letter to Blount County Pride saying that any explicit performances in front of children would not be allowed at a “Pride” event on September 2 just south of Knoxville. Video has emerged from “Pride” events across the country of explicit drag performances with children present and looking on.
“It is certainly possible that the event in question will not violate any of the criminal statutes,” Desmond said. “However if sufficient evidence is presented to this office that these referenced criminal statutes have been violated, our office will ethically and justly prosecute these cases in the interest of justice.”
Desmond had a temporary restraining order placed on him by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer meaning that he is blocked from enforcing Tennessee’s Adult Entertainment Act. Also part of the suit was Flamy Grant, who has been portrayed in the media as a “Christian” drag performer.
The law has previously been blocked before by a federal judge in Memphis, but could be enforced outside of Shelby County. In late June, U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee blocked the law after Friends of George’s, a self-described “LGBTQ theatre company” based in Memphis, filed a suit challenging the law.
Blount County Pride, being represented by the ACLU, claims that Desmond’s letter to the “Pride” group was “a naked attempt to chill free speech.”
“Had Defendant Desmond merely wished to notify the public that he intends to enforce the [law], he could have issued a public statement,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, he sent a letter targeting Blount Pride and the drag artists who are scheduled to perform,” the lawsuit from the ACLU said.
Tennessee’s law has been supported by an 18 state coalition and America First Legal in court, who say that the law is necessary to protect children.
“Protecting children from obscene and lewd behavior is not a new idea. We need to let kids be kids, and the state has legal authority to ensure their protection,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a news release.