City tries to ban Pride events, gets slapped with $500,000 fine instead

City tries to ban Pride events, gets slapped with $500,000 fine instead

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A Tennessee city has been successfully sued after it attempted to refuse permits for Pride festivals.

Murfreesboro, population of 152,000, lies around 34 miles south of Nashville.

The annual Boro Pride has been organized since 2016 by the local organization, Tennessee Equality Project.

In late 2022, conservatives in the city expressed outrage that drag queens performed at the event. They went so far as saying the performances resulted in the “illegal sexualization of kids.”

Pride organizers said the drag performers were clothed and did nothing inappropriate.

Last June, city officials updated Murfreesboro’s “community decency standards”. These “assist in the determination of conduct, materials, and events that may be judged as obscene or harmful to minors.”

Although it did not specifically mention “homosexuality”, the ordinance referenced 21-72 of the city code, which categorizes homosexuality as an act of indecent sexual conduct.

The city also stated it would not grant any future permits to the Tennessee Equality Project.

That prompted the Tennessee Equality Project to team up with the American Civil Liberties Union to take legal action. They launched a federal lawsuit. They argued the city was discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community and violating the First Amendment.

The ACLU first got a judge to put a temporary block on the city’s new ordinance last October. Tennessee Equality Project went ahead with its 2023 Boro Pride event, but it took place at Middle Tennessee State University’s campus, which side-stepped it dealing with the city.

Settlement reached

Yesterday, the ACLU announced that it reached a settlement with city leaders. City leaders must pay a $500,000 fine and agree to properly consider any future permit requests submitted by the Tennessee Equality Project. In return, the ACLU will file to dismiss the case proceeding.

“The government has no right to censor LGBTQ+ people and expression,” said an ACLU spokesperson.

“More important than the monetary recovery, this settlement sends a clear message that the city’s discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community was blatantly unconstitutional and that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated here — or anywhere across the country.”

TEP executive director Chris Sanders welcomed the settlement.

“Now we can turn our attention to preparing for the 2024 BoroPride festival and defending the rights of LGBTQ+ Tennesseans at the state legislature,” Sanders said. “Our gratitude goes to the LGBTQ+ community for standing with us and to the legal advocates who championed the defense of free speech and expression.”

Murfreesboro city officials have not commented on the settlement.


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