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ACLU Wins Settlement Ending Drag Ban Ordinance in Tennessee City

Christina Horsten/Getty Images
Christina Horsten/Getty Images

The city of Murfreesboro, Tennessee will pay $500,000 and repeal its “anti-LGBTQ+ ordinance” in a settlement over its denial of event permits to the founder and host of a local pride festival where performers appeared in drag.

The ACLU of Tennessee announced in a press statement on Wednesday that it had reached a deal in its lawsuit against Murfreesboro, which was initially brought by the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), a regional LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. TEP, which hosts the annual BoroPride Festival, was regularly denied event permits by the city after local leaders determined the 2022 festival constituted “illegal sexualization of kids.” In its original ordinance, which was amended in November during the lawsuit, the city claimed that displays of “homosexuality” fell under indecent “sexual conduct” in public. TEP rejected the claims of indecency, stating that all performers were fully clothed.

“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,” the ACLU wrote in an earlier statement.

Representatives for the city of Murfreesboro did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tennessee has increased legislative aggression against trans people in recent years, seeking to ban gender-affirming care and restrict bathroom access to sex assigned at birth. It has also sought to ban books related to LGBTQ+ topics in local libraries.

I’m a Trans Lawmaker in Tennessee. Anti-Trans Laws Are Making It Dangerous in My State.

“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,” the ACLU and its partners wrote in a joint statement.

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