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Memphis drag queens say they will not comply after anti-drag show bill signed into law

WBIR-TV Knoxville 3/7/2023 Walter Murphy, WMC Staff
© Provided by WBIR-TV Knoxville

Memphis drag queens announced they will not comply with Tennessee’s new bill targeting “male or female” impersonators, at the first Rainbow Brunch since the bill was signed into law.

“If they tell me I can no longer march in pride, I will not comply,” said Bella DuBalle. “If they tell me I can not go out in public as my nonbinary, authentic self — I will not comply.”

DuBalle said they will not comply if they’re told not to allow minors into their shows either because the shows are not sexual in any way—or what the bill describes as “prurient.”

Tennessee State Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari told Action News 5, a sister station of WBIR's located in Memphis, that she’s been to Atomic Rose’s drag brunch a few times and has never seen anything she deemed inappropriate to children.

“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Akbari said. “It was really a fun source of entertainment and a diverse place for people to gather.”

DuBalle also laid into Governor Bill Lee at Sunday’s Rainbow Brunch by stating the form of entertainment will not be erased.

“We have been doing public drag in Tennessee for 50 years,” DuBalle told the crowd of all ages. “We are not going anywhere.”

Governor Lee has repeatedly said the bill is to protect kids.

“Sexualized entertainment in front of children and obscenity for children is something that doesn’t have a place in Tennessee,” Governor Lee said at an event in Memphis Wednesday.

Action News 5 emailed the governor’s office multiple times to ask if drag entertainers have been charged with harming minors in Tennessee. He has not responded.

The bill is scheduled to go into effect on April 1. DuBalle said they plan to have a large, public drag show that day in spite of it.

This story was originally reported by WMC in Memphis.

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