In recent news, the city of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has been at the center of a heated debate over a local “decency ordinance” that critics argue is overly vague and subject to wide interpretation.
The Decency Ordinance
The so-called “decency ordinance,” approved in June, prohibits people in public spaces from engaging in “indecent behavior,” displaying “indecent material,” or subjecting minors to behaviors, material, or events that are “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors”. Those found in violation are barred from sponsoring any events in a public space for a period of two to five years.
Critics of the ordinance have argued that such language is overly vague and subject to wide interpretation based on individual biases or preferences. Some have also noted that the ordinance’s references to appealing to the “prurient interest” appear to be specifically targeting drag shows, with the intent of having such performances deemed as “offensive” based on the aforementioned “prevailing standards” of what constitutes “decency”.
The BoroPride Festival
A year ago, the city started to take action targeting BoroPride over the presence of drag and open displays of LGBTQ identity. Tindall, the city manager, sent a letter to BoroPride organizers stating that he would deny future permits for the festival and drag show on government property. In that letter, Tindal accused the 2022 BoroPride event of having exposed children “to a harmful prurient interest”.
The Court Ruling
A federal judge blocked the city of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, from enforcing the ordinance against organizers of the BoroPride festival. U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., of the Middle District of Tennessee, signed a temporary restraining order directing the city of Murfreesboro and its officials not to “enforce or take any action pursuant to the provision to Murfreesboro City Code 21-71 that includes ‘homosexuality’ within the definition of ‘sexual conduct’”.
The controversy surrounding the decency ordinance in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and its impact on the LGBTQ+ community, particularly the BoroPride festival, highlights the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights in certain parts of the United States. The court ruling in favor of the BoroPride festival is a significant step towards ensuring that such events can continue to take place, fostering a more inclusive and accepting society.