Actors’ Equity Association Joins Legal Fight Opposing Tennessee’s Unconstitutional Attack on Drag Performances with New Amicus Brief

New York -- Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, has filed an amicus brief in the Western District of Tennessee opposing the state’s first-in-the-nation law intended to limit drag shows. 

In a brief filed this week, Equity argued the law is unconstitutionally overbroad and vague, covers a wide range of live theatrical performances in which Equity members perform and will deter the expression of protected speech in Tennessee. The union is arguing that the court should grant a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the ban from taking effect. 

"News flash to the Tennessee legislature: drag performance is not inherently 'prurient'. Have they ever heard of Shakespeare? The Ancient Greeks? Live theatre has always had male actors (in drag!) playing female roles, and vice versa. This law is not just an unconstitutional attack on drag performances and the LGBTQ+ community; it is an attack on the live arts and free expression,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “It is also quite clearly part of a much broader campaign in which Republican legislators use transgender/non-conforming human beings as political footballs, which is as cynical as it gets, but at least perhaps a metaphor they will understand. Our members want to work in Tennessee, but they want to feel safe in their workplaces. This should not be an impossible choice. Tennessee’s billion-dollar arts and culture sector is being put at risk by these endless hateful attacks, and this unconstitutional law should never be allowed to go into effect.”

According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $1.17 billion industry in the State of Tennessee—one that supports 38,482 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $135.9 million in local and state government revenue. The industry generates another $700 million in additional spending by audiences, economic activity that pumps critical money into local businesses like restaurants, child care providers, parking garages and hotels, among others. 

View the union’s amicus brief here.

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks  

April 21, 2023