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Memphis LGBTQ+ community responds to judge's ruling on 'unconstitutional' anti-drag bill

Members of the LGBTQ+ community in Memphis say they are in a fight the long term after judge Thomas Parker ultimately sided with them on the state's anti-drag bill.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —

Some members of the LGBTQ+ community are breathing a sigh of relief now as they celebrate pride and U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker ruling deeming Tennessee's "adult entertainment act" unconstitutional. 

“Oh yeah, it’s definitely a weight off my shoulder” Pride Fest attendee Demonte Knight said. “It’s nothing like being yourself, so for that to pass, it was a real good thing for everyone.”   

The act would have banned "adult cabaret performances" anywhere children could be present. 

Brice Timmons is the civil rights attorney representing Friends of George's, the Memphis nonprofit that stages "drag-centric performances" and that directly challenged Tennessee’s law.

“The Tennessee legislature decided that they wanted to prohibit drag and they did under the guise of trying to do something to protect children, and it didn’t actually protect children. It just kept people — kept artists from performing,” Timmons said.

Employee Brenda Newport at Friends of George's said it’s a win they needed to continue their work. 

“I really wasn’t sure because I too had given up around eight o’clock,” Newport said. “If that bill had gone into effect, drag entertainers like me and others that I’m friends with, wouldn’t have been able to be here and we wouldn’t be able to allow children to be here and, you know, the whole point of Pride is to show love and support.”  

Though this ruling makes the restraining order placed against the law earlier this year permanent, there is still the ability for the law’s supporters to appeal it. 

“More likely we’re definitely going to go the Sixth circuit court of Appeals,” civil rights attorney Melissa Stewart said. 

It's a fight these members of the LGBTQ+ community say they are in for the long term. 

“The work is never done for any marginalized group of people,” Newport said. “But the drive and the compassion that comes from the group such as Friends of George's gives me the personal strength to know — we did it once why can’t we do it again?” 

In response state senator Jack Johnson posted a statement to Twitter, asking the “attorney general” to “appeal the decision to the 6th circuit” Saying in part, “Regardless, we will not waver in our efforts to protect the children of Tennessee." 

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