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Country star performs with drag queen backup dancers at CMT Music Awards, appears to call for stricter gun laws

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CMT

During the 2023 CMT Music Awards on Sunday, singer and co-host Kelsea Ballerini made a political statement against Tennessee's GOP-backed law banning children from drag shows by performing her hit song with drag queen backup dancers.

Ballerini, 29, also appeared to push for stricter gun laws following the recent shooting at the Covenant School, where a 28-year-old transgender individual murdered three children and three adults.

During her performance, Ballerini sang her popular single, "If You Go Down (I'm Goin' Down Too)." Four drag queens from the reality television show "RuPaul's Drag Race" joined Ballerini onstage. The performance concluded with a burst of confetti, rainbow stage lights, and a rainbow backdrop.

When asked about the performance, Ballerini told Entertainment Tonight, "I love performance, and I love self-expression, and I love inclusivity."

Ballerini posted on Twitter that evening, "If you go down, I'm going down too," with a rainbow flag emoji. She also thanked the drag queens "for celebrating love, self expression, and performance."

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released a statement in support of Ballerini's performance, applauding her for displaying "bold allyship by proudly featuring talented and beloved drag artists."

In January, Tennessee Republicans introduced Senate Bill 3, which would designate drag queen shows as adult-only entertainment that cannot be performed in public spaces where children could be present.

On Friday, the bill was temporarily halted by a federal judge just hours before it was scheduled to go into effect.

Prior to her performance, Ballerini addressed the audience about the recent shooting at a Christian school in Nashville.

"On March 27, 2023, three 9-year-olds — Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs — along with Dr. Katherine Koonce, Cynthia Peak, and Mike Hill, walked into the Covenant School and didn't walk out," Ballerini stated. "The community of sorrow over this and the 130 mass shootings in the U.S. this year alone stretches from coast to coast."

"I wanted to personally stand up here and share this moment because, on August 21, 2008, I watched Ryan McDonald, my 15-year-old classmate at Central High School, lose his life to a gun in our cafeteria," Ballerini continued.

"Tonight's broadcast is dedicated to the ever-growing list of families, friends, survivors, witnesses, and responders whose lives continue to forever be changed by gun violence," she added. "I pray deeply that the closeness and the community that we feel through the next few hours of music can soon turn into action — like, real action — that moves us forward together to create change for the safety of our kids and our loved ones."

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