This week Tennessee legislators adjourned the state’s legislative special session with zero movement on pro-LGBTQ bills, gun violence, mental health measures, or school safety, ignoring grieving parents and failing to keep young people safe from the epidemic of violence that led most notably to the deaths of three children and three adults at an elementary school in Nashville this past March.
Instead of urging lawmakers to address the urgent priority of keeping guns out of the wrong hands, Ryan Desmond, the district attorney general for the 5th Judicial District (Blount County) of Tennessee, has spent his time recently threatening the Blount County Pride event scheduled for this weekend, despite a June court ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker stating that Tennessee’s drag ban “is an unconstitutional restriction on speech” and which halted the ban’s enforcement until after a trial can take place.
Just today, U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer issued a temporary restraining order barring Desmond from enforcing the anti-drag law and from banning the local Pride event.
This is the latest development in terms of anti-LGBTQ drag bans that were passed in many states this year and which are increasingly being struck down by courts across the country. Just yesterday, a federal judge out of Texas halted the state’s anti-drag ban, which had been set to go into effect today. U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who authored the opinion, said: “The Court finds there is a substantial likelihood that S.B. 12 as drafted violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution under one or more of the legal theories put forward by the Plaintiffs.” Federal courts in Tennesee, as well as Arkansas, Florida, and Kentucky, have additionally ruled against their states’ respective bans on health care for transgender Americans.
In addition to the drag ban, Tennessee lawmakers have enacted some of the most dangerous anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender laws in the nation including a ban on transgender health care and on transgender student participation in sports. Although lawmakers did not address specific anti-LGBTQ bills or amendments during this special session, they still took anti-democratic measures to silence our allies. On Monday, Republican lawmakers sought to silence State Rep. Justin Jones, a black Democrat from Nashville, prohibiting him from speaking on and debating bills the rest of the day. Earlier this year, Jones along with two other lawmakers was expelled for his role in a protest at the capitol urging action on gun control. He was later reappointed and reelected to his seat earlier this year.
GLAAD stands with Blount Pride and local advocates on the ground, such as Tennessee Equality Project, Inclusion Tennessee, and the ACLU of Tennessee – who moved the lawsuit forward – and who are doing important work to make life better for LGBTQ Tennesseans. We wish all a safe and happy celebration of Pride.