ACLU of Tennessee Comment on Portland's "Sexually-Oriented Businesses" Ordinance

New Regulations Do Not Apply To Drag Shows

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
November 21, 2017 4:15 pm

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PORTLAND, Tenn. — Last night, the Portland, Tennessee board of aldermen passed a revised version of an ordinance to regulate “sexually-oriented businesses.” The ordinance that passed is the latest revision in a series of ordinances that the board has proposed in response to popular drag shows presented over the past several months by Elite Productions at Envy Restaurant Bar & Grill.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee represents both Elite Productions and Envy.

The board of aldermen had previously sought to define male or female impersonation as inherently erotic in order to regulate it as adult entertainment and effectively zone drag shows out of existence in Portland. Initial drafts of the ordinance violated the First Amendment.

The ordinance that ultimately passed mirrors the definition of “adult cabaret” found in state law, which clarifies that adult cabarets are businesses that offer erotic entertainment with the performers exposing certain anatomical areas. Neither criteria apply in the case of Elite Productions’ performances, which include fully-clothed impersonators singing, dancing and performing comedy bits.

Mandy Strickland Floyd, ACLU of Tennessee staff attorney, had the following reaction:

“We are pleased that the ordinance that passed is in line with the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and artistic expression regardless of what someone is wearing. Our clients can now continue performing without government interference. We will be monitoring closely to ensure that the city does not attempt to inappropriately regulate our clients’ shows under this new ordinance in the future.”

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