The Knox Pride Festival, a free annual event celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community in Knoxville, Tennessee, is in danger of cancellation due to a proposed bill in the state legislature. The bill aims to restrict adult cabaret performances in public places, including drag performances, which could make parts of the festival illegal. The festival’s organizers have warned that if the bill becomes law, they may have no choice but to cancel the event, which draws an estimated 75,000 to 80,000 people and is the largest fundraiser for a resource center operated by Knox Pride.
Senate Bill 3, which has been approved by the Tennessee House and is awaiting approval from the Republican-controlled Senate, would make it illegal to hold adult cabaret performances on public property or in places where the performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult. The bill defines “adult cabaret performances” as performances featuring topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.
The bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, a Republican, claims that the measure is aimed at protecting children in the state from sexualized drag queen events. However, the festival’s organizers and supporters argue that the bill is discriminatory and unfairly targets the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Knox Pride Festival’s executive director, John Camp, has stated that if the bill becomes law, the festival and potentially the parade would be against the law in the ways they have presented entertainment in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. The festival’s organizers believe that the bill infringes on their rights to free expression and could have a devastating impact on their community.
If the bill becomes law, first-time violators would face a little less than a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Second offenses would be felonies and carry up to six years in prison and fines up to $3,000. The potential consequences of the bill have sparked outrage and concern from supporters of the festival and the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Knox Pride Festival is a vital event that brings together the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies to celebrate diversity and promote equality. The proposed bill could have a chilling effect on the festival and other events like it, stifling free expression and threatening the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. As the bill awaits approval from the Senate, supporters of the festival are mobilizing to fight against its passage and protect their right to express themselves freely.