Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the US’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organisation, has retaliated against Tennessee Governor Bill Lee a week after he signed an anti-drag law.
On Thursday (2 March), Tennessee became the first state to explicitly ban drag shows in public spaces. It will take effect from 1 July.
Lee signed into law a bill restricting “adult cabaret performances” which it defines as including “male or female impersonators.”
These performances are banned in locations “where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.”
On Tuesday (7 March) HRC revealed their full-page ad in The Tennessean.
The ad shows an image of Lee, reportedly taken from a 1977 Franklin High Yearbook, TIME reports. He’s wearing a dress, a strand of pearls, and a wig.
“This kid enjoyed drag. Guess what happened to him?” the ad reads.
“Tennessee has passed more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation than any other state, which is no laughing matter,” it also details.
“We sent a clear message to Governor Lee and anti-LGBTQ+ extremists like him with an ad in The Tennessean today,” HRC wrote.
“[Lee] isn’t just focused on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation — he’s obsessed with it.”
“Actions have consequences,” they added. “When you attack our rights, we will call out your hypocrisy at every turn.”
The ad calls on those to oppose the bill to join the Human Rights Campaign in action against the Tennessee governor.
HRC President Kelley Robinson said the anti-drag bill directly targets the LGBTQ+ community.
In the statement, Robinson outlines Lee “isn’t just focused on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation — he’s obsessed with it.”
“Hypocrisy and discrimination run rich in the Tennessee of Gov. Lee — who himself formerly enjoyed dressing in drag but who is now working feverishly to prove otherwise.”
Banning children from drag shows has seemingly become a goal for Republicans, following months of continued attempts.
They have been targeting Drag Queen Story Hour sessions, where drag queens read to children, on the belief they expose children to sexual themes.
Oklahoma State Senator Nathan Dahm recently appeared on The Problem with Jon Stewart and struggled to defend his support of drag bans when quizzed about whether it limits free speech.
Drag Queen Story Hour sessions have also been disrupted in the UK in recent months.