NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) – Local activists and LGBTQ+ community members held a “Have a Heart Rally” in opposition to legislation impacting the LGBTQ+ community in Tennessee.
They believe House Bill 9, which bans drag performances in the state, is unnecessary and puts a target on the community. Hundreds gathered at Legislative Plaza in Nashville in protest of the proposed law.
“We’re here today to tell politicians that attacking LGBTQ-plus culture, events, and spaces under the guise of protecting our children does nothing facing the real issues facing our youth,” said a member of the Human Rights Campaign during the rally.
They’re speaking out against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation like HB9 and SB3, which would ban any drag performances from taking place on any public property. It would also require all drag performers to obtain a permit.
“Drag is nothing to be scared of. It’s pure theater and fun for everyone,” local drag entertainer Brittany Banks said during the rally. “I am an actor that’s created their own character to share with the world.”
In the crowd, there was a sea of signs showing support for LGBTQ and trans rights.
Dawn Bennett, a pastor at The Table Lutheran Church in downtown Nashville, identifies as a bisexual female. She said drag is entertainment.
“Just like we would go to the movie theater, just like we would go to Monty Python or a Clue game. Out there is clue buses here, there’s transportainment here. Drag is entertainment and this is how people make their living,” Bennett said.
After the rally, they marched to the Cordell Hull Building where the House Criminal Justice Committee voted to recommend the bill for passage.
Several people testified against the bill, like attorney Abby Rubenfeld, who represented Tennessee Pride Chamber. She said how the bill would impact business in the state.
“I speak from experience. It’s going to cost the state a lot of money because I was one of the attorneys that won the Supreme Court case about marriage equality and the state had to pay us close to $2 million in attorney fees, and this law will be challenged and they will lost and they’ll have to pay attorney fees again,” Rubenfeld said.
Chris Barrett with Gays against Groomers from Missouri supports the bill.
He was asked by Rep. Chris Todd, R-Jackson, the primary House sponsor, to discuss why the bill should be passed.
Barrett, who identifies as a gay man, said it’s not an attack on gay people but the bill protects innocent children.
“We’re seeing a lot of really troubling things on social media, popping up on social media, where people are videoing these things and saying, ‘Hey, I took my family to this family-friendly drag event’ and then they have the performer up there rubbing his crotch or something like that, and then it’s like this hasn’t started to look so family-friendly anymore,” Barrett said.
But others, like Rubenfeld, believe Tennessee should focus on other issues involving children like providing better education and foster care.
“This isn’t necessary. There are already laws that prohibit inappropriate sexual behavior in public or at a business. There are already laws; there’s no need for this,” Rubenfeld said.
After the recommendation for passage, the bill has been referred to the House Calendar and Rules Committee. SB3, the companion bill, was approved by the Tennessee Senate last week.