NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On November 2, Murfreesboro officials quietly amended the city’s anti-LGBTQ+ city ordinance in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, ACLU, Ballard Spahr, and Burr & Forman against the city of Murfreesboro on behalf of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), founder and host of the annual BoroPride Festival.
The original anti-LGBTQ+ ordinance stated that it would ban “indecent exposure, public indecency, lewd behavior, nudity or sexual conduct,” noting that sexual conduct includes “homosexuality.”
The new amendment goes into effect today, November 17, and removes “homosexuality” from the definition of “sexual conduct,” a small but necessary step towards bringing Murfreesboro’s harmful ordinance into compliance with the Constitutional guarantees of Free Speech and Equal Protection.
This amendment comes in response to a lawsuit filed on October 6, alleging that the Murfreesboro mayor and city manager engaged in a yearlong, concerted anti-LGBTQ+ campaign to chill TEP and Murfreesboro residents’ protected speech and expression, culminating in the city establishing an official policy prohibiting the issuance of permits to TEP; discriminatorily and unconstitutionally denying TEP’s request for a permit for 2023 BoroPride; and implementing a sweeping and vague ordinance designed to censor LGBTQ+ speech and conduct within the Murfreesboro community or from TEP.
This lawsuit is ongoing as the court takes up the plaintiff’s request to find the remaining portions of Murfreesboro’s anti-LGBTQ+ ordinance unconstitutional and to stop the City from enforcing its blanket denial of all future special event permits applied for by TEP.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, ACLU, Ballard Spahr, and Burr & Forman issued the following joint statement:
“Censoring LGBTQ+ messages is discriminatory and violates community members’ First Amendment rights. We are glad Murfreesboro officials have amended the ordinance; however, we will continue to challenge the remaining portions of this anti-LGBTQ+ ordinance until it is permanently defeated, and all residents of Murfreesboro know that their government officials have no right to censor LGBTQ+ people and our expression.”
The amendment to the ordinance can be found below.