Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called a Tennessee law banning “adult cabaret” performances from taking place on public property or where children are present “absurd,” expressing hope that such laws would go “the way of the dinosaur.” 

The former secretary of state and first lady attended the opening night on Broadway of “Bob Fosse’s Dancin'” on Sunday when a New York Times reporter asked her about Senate Bill 3 in Tennessee. The legislation was signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee earlier this month.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative, a gathering of international leaders dedicated to helping solve global problems, September 19, 2022 in New York City.

The reporter asked Clinton to offer her opinion on whether the bill means that shows such as “Some Like It Hot,” which tells the story of two men who dress as women to escape the mob, could be banned from performing in the state. 

“It’s a very sad comment about what people in our country think is important,” Clinton told the outlet Sunday. “I hope it goes the way of the dinosaur because people will realize it’s just a political stunt.”

The law, which takes effect on April 1, “establishes a criminal offense for a person who takes part in an adult cabaret performance on public property or in a place where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a non-adult person.”

According to the bill’s definition of an “adult cabaret performance,” this includes shows that involve exotic or topless dancers, strippers, go-go dancers, or male and female impersonators providing entertainment that “appeals to a prurient interest.” Drag shows are performances typically featuring men who dress up to impersonate women. 

The New York Times suggests that such legislation could ban Shakespeare plays that feature cross-dressing characters or a current tour of the musical “1776” with a company that consists of “an all-female, trans and nonbinary cast.” 

“I’m guessing they’re going to close the state lines on everything Shakespearean?” she said. “Are we going to stop exporting any kind of entertainment?”

Proponents of the legislation, including the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Jack Johnson, have argued that the law seeks to protect children from sexually explicit content. 

“This law gives parents confidence that they can take their children to a public or private show and not be caught unawares by a sexualized performance,” Johnson said tweeted on March 2 after passing the State Senate.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee argues that the legal definition of “harmful to minors” is “very narrow” and that drag performances are protected by the First Amendment.

“We are disappointed that Gov. Lee decided to sign legislation that would allow politicians to censor drag performances,” Stella Yarbrough, legal director of the ACLU in Tennessee, said in a statement.

“However, I want to be very clear: The law that just got signed into law does not make it illegal to perform in drag in Tennessee,” she continued. “The law prohibits obscene performances, and drag performances are not inherently obscene.”

Yarbrough believes lawmakers will “abuse” legislation to “censor” people based on “subjective views” about what is appropriate for children. Yarbrough claimed that the bill sends a message to “LGBTQ Tennesseers” that they are not welcome in our state.

The Tennessee ACLU could challenge any enforcement of the law that seeks to “punish” drag performers or shut down a family-friendly LGBTQ event,” she said.

One event in particular, the show Drag The Kids To Pride, which took place in Dallas, Texas last June, prompted Texas Republican Rep. Bryan Slaton to promise he would introduce legislation banning drag shows . The state commissioner was reacting to reports from minors who took part in the event. Slaton finally introduced that bill earlier this month.

“However, I want to be abundantly clear: the law that was just signed does not make it illegal to perform in drag in Tennessee,” she continued. “The law bans obscene performances, and drag performances are not inherently obscene.”

Photos and video footage of the event showed men in women’s clothing performing in front of children. One artist danced lewdly under a sign that read “It’s Not Gonna Lick Itself” and took tips from children in the audience.

In December, the James L. Knight Center in Miami and Plaza Live in Orlando hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas.” Both venues received a letter from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation warning that it would take “all available action” if minors were allowed to attend.

The letter coincided with an announcement by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which said DBPR had launched an investigation after it received “multiple complaints about a sexually explicit performance marketed to children being held in Fort Lauderdale.” .

One event in particular, the “Drag The Kids To Pride” show hosted last June in Dallas, Texas, prompted Republican Texas Rep. Bryan Slaton to promise he’d introduce legislation banning drag shows. The state representative was reacting to reports of minors attending the event. Slaton finally introduced that bill earlier this month. 

The event, hosted by cast members “Nina West” and “Trinity The Tuck,” featured actors telling stories about Santa while male actors danced lewdly while sex tapes played in the background.

At one point during the show, a man with prosthetic breasts, taking tips from the audience, asked a child at the event, “Are you reaching for mine?” [breasts]? Are you hungry?”

The letter coincided with an announcement from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, stating that DBPR had launched an investigation after receiving “multiple complaints about a sexually explicit performance marketed to children held in Fort Lauderdale.” 

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