(RNS) — Flamy Grant, a drag performer and music artist, has joined an LGBTQ nonprofit in suing a local prosecutor in Tennessee who threatened to prosecute them over a pride event where Grant is scheduled to headline on Saturday (Sept. 2).
“I think it’s an issue of defending our First Amendment rights as artists, queer people and as citizens,” said Grant, the first drag queen to top iTunes’ Christian music charts.
Earlier this week, Ryan Desmond, the district attorney general in Blount County, south of Knoxville, warned Blount Pride in a letter that he intended to enforce the Tennessee Adult Entertainment Act, better known as the “anti-drag act,” if he found any violations of the act at Blount Pride’s festival on Saturday. The festival is slated to present comedy revues, choir concerts and drag performances.
The entertainment act, which prohibits “adult cabaret entertainment” from taking place in public or in a place where it could be viewed by children, passed the state Legislature in February. But in June a federal court ruled that the law is unconstitutionally vague.
Desmond’s letter argues that because that decision is being appealed by the state’s attorney general, Blount County can prosecute violations of the act. The attorney general, Jonathan Skrmetti, is named along with Desmond as a defendant in the lawsuit, as are three Blount County law enforcement officials.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit late Wednesday on the plaintiffs’ behalf, calling Desmond’s letter “a naked attempt to chill Plaintiffs’ speech and expression in retaliation to Blount Pride’s social media posts.”
Grant told Religion News Service after joining the suit, “This is an infringement of the rights of Americans, it is a violation of our personal rights, and it’s just a bad faith, bigoted law, that unfairly targets people based on their sexual identity and orientation, their gender identity, and in my case, their career as a drag queen.”
In an email to local news outlet WVLT news, Desmond said he wrote his letter “simply to give individuals reasonable and fair notice that there is criminal statute that is still in effect in this jurisdiction.” Desmond could not be reached for comment in time for publication.