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Judge temporarily blocks Tennessee city ordinance banning drag shows on public property

Judge temporarily blocks Tennessee city ordinance banning drag shows on public property

A federal judge temporarily blocked a city in Tennessee from enforcing an ordinance that bans drag performances from happening on public property during an upcoming Pride festival.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Waverly Crenshaw Jr. ruled in an order issued Friday that Murfreesboro, Tennessee, officials are prohibited from enforcing the ordinance during the BoroPride Festival scheduled for next weekend.

The order came in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee on behalf of a nonfprofit group that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights called the Tennessee Equality Project, which has hosted the BoroPride Festival since 2016. 

The city of Murfreesboro and the equality project reached an agreement that the city will not enforce the ordinance during the Pride festival on October 28, the order states.

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Drag performer Poly Tics

A federal judge temporarily blocked a city in Tennessee from enforcing an ordinance that bans drag performances from happening on public property. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)

The lawsuit claims the ordinance discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community and violates free speech protections granted by the First Amendment.

The ACLU alleges that the order “confirms that the community’s free speech rights will be protected at the BoroPride Festival,” as litigation over the city ordinance continues.

“We are relieved that the court has taken action to ensure that Murfreesboro’s discriminatory ordinance will not be enforced during the BoroPride festival,” Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders said in a statement. “We look forward to a safe, joyful celebration of Murfreesboro’s LGBTQ+ community.”

The lawsuit is the latest effort to challenge the state’s Republican-led proposals to limit drag performances in public places where children may be present, as GOP lawmakers argue that the performances are inappropriate for younger audiences.

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Drag Shows

The lawsuit is the latest effort to challenge the state’s Republican-led proposals to limit drag performances in public places where children may be present. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

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Conservative activists have said that the drag performances at the 2022 Pride event resulted in the “sexualization of kids.” The equality project contends that the performers were fully clothed and denied accusations that the shows were inappropriate for children.

The city warned the equality project that it would deny any future event permits and later approved updating its “community decency standards” designed to “assist in the determination of conduct, materials, and events that may be judged as obscene or harmful to minors.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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