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Anti-Drag Law Struck Down

That certainly didn't take long. On Saturday, we answered a question from E.W. in Skaneateles about the various anti-drag laws that have been passed in red states. And we wrote:

The anti-drag-show laws being promulgated by red states are already facing lawsuits on First Amendment grounds. The government can encumber speech, but there has to be a compelling public interest in doing so. The red staters have claimed that the drag shows somehow harm children, but making that claim doesn't make it so, and the evidence does not support that position. So, it is likely these laws will be struck down once the lawsuits work their way through the court system.

As we note regularly, we are not lawyers. However, we do know a bit about the First Amendment, and so we knew we were on firm ground here.

It did not take long for our assessment to be sustained. In fact, it only took a few hours. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Parker is a Donald Trump appointee, albeit one confirmed 98-0 by the Senate, and so not a hyperpartisan judge in the mold of a Reed O'Connor or a Neomi Rao. He was asked to rule on the constitutionality of Tennessee's anti-drag law, and on Friday evening he issued his ruling. It's 70 pages, but the key passage is this:

After considering the briefs and evidence presented at trial, the Court finds that—despite Tennessee's compelling interest in protecting the psychological and physical wellbeing of children—the Adult Entertainment Act ("AEA") is an UNCONSTITUTIONAL restriction on the freedom of speech and PERMANENTLY ENJOINS Defendant Steven Mulroy from enforcing the unconstitutional statute.

Parker issued his ruling at virtually the same moment we were writing that answer, although we did not know about his opinion until after the post went live, as the news coverage of the ruling did not happen until the Saturday news cycle. Put another way, we were hard at work on Friday night, but the reporters weren't. Slackers.

We presume this will be appealed, though that decision apparently hasn't been made yet. If and when that does come to pass, appeals of Parker's rulings (he's part of the District Court for the Western District of Tennessee) go to the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. It's definitely right-leaning, but not far-right-activist in the way the Fifth Circuit is. And given how clear the violation of the First Amendment is here, we don't expect the defendants will have better luck at the appeals level, or at the Supreme Court, once the matter reaches that level.

But while the case for anti-drag laws is very, very weak, the politicians behind the laws care almost entirely about virtue signalling. For them, "I am fighting the good fight against these people" is far more important than "I am winning the fight against these people." So, Parker's ruling surely won't bring an end to this time-wasting, grandstanding nonsense. (Z)

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