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September 1, 2023

September 1, 2023 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement of the unconstitutional anti-drag law in Blount County, protecting the free speech rights of Blount Pride and Christian artist and drag performer Flamy Grant to hold drag performances at the Blount Pride celebration on Saturday, September 2. 

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and attorneys Brice Timmons, Melissa Stewart, Daniel Horwitz, Melissa Dix, and Justin Gilbert on behalf of Blount Pride and Flamy Grant.   

The lawsuit was filed after Blount Pride received a letter from 5th Judicial District Attorney General Ryan K. Desmond asserting his intent to enforce the anti-drag law, which had previously been declared unconstitutional by a federal court. 

The temporary restraining order blocks enforcement of the anti-drag law against Blount Pride. 

Blount Pride will take place on Saturday, September 2 from 1 – 8 p.m. ET at the Clayton Center for the Arts, Maryville College, 502 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville.  

Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee ruled in Friends of George’s, Inc. v. Mulroy that the anti-drag law is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, and amounts to a content-based and viewpoint-based restriction on speech impermissibly targeting drag performers. In today’s ruling, the court acknowledged that they were likely to adopt a similar reasoning because the “Plaintiffs, in relying on Friends of Georges, have therefore demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits.” 

Today’s ruling confirms that the plaintiffs’ free speech rights will be protected as litigation continues and the court takes up the assertions in the lawsuit that the anti-drag law violates the First Amendment and that it is unconstitutionally broad and vague, chilling the free speech rights of Blount County residents.  

The hearing is set for September 8, 2023.  

The following can be attributed to Blount Pride board president Ari Baker:
“We are relieved that the court has taken action to ensure that law enforcement will not wrongly apply this unconstitutional law. This ruling allows us to fully realize Blount Pride’s goal of creating a safe place for LGBTQ people to connect, celebrate, and share resources. We appreciate the community support and look forward to celebrating with you all on Saturday.” 

The following can be attributed to plaintiff Flamy Grant:
“This ruling confirms that despite continued attempts to remove LGBTQ people from public life, our First Amendment rights matter just as much as anyone else’s. Our fundamental right to exist as we are and to gather in celebration with our community is protected by the First Amendment on and off the stage.” 

The following can be attributed to ACLU-TN Legal Director Stella Yarbrough:
“This ruling reinforces that drag performance is constitutionally-protected expression under the First Amendment, regardless of where in the state it is performed. To anyone else seeking to restrict the constitutional right of drag performance – you’ll see us in court.” 

The following can be attributed to Attorney Daniel A. Horwitz:
“This order should serve as a warning: Whether you are a district attorney or any other government official, if you violate the Constitution, you will be held accountable.” 

The following can be attributed to Attorney Melissa Stewart:
“We’re proud to have, for a second time, protected Tennesseans from this unconstitutional law. If state officials try to enforce the anti-drag law, we are ready and willing to stop them.”