For five months this year, homosexuality was prohibited in a Tennessee college town.
In June, the city council of Murfreesboro enacted an ordinance outlawing “indecent exposure, public indecency, lewd behavior, nudity or sexual conduct”. The rule did not explicitly mention homosexuality, but LGBTQ+ people in the town quickly realized that the ordinance references 21-72 of the city code, which categorizes homosexuality as an act of indecent sexual conduct.
The ordinance was essentially a covert ban on LGBTQ+ existence.
Erin Reed, one of the first and only national journalists to cover the ordinance earlier this year, noted that Murfreesboro isn’t “the only community that has these old archaic bits of code that target homosexuality”.
Earlier this month, following a legal challenge from the ACLU of Tennessee, the government of Murfreesboro removed “homosexuality” from the list of acts defined as “public indecency” by the city code. The small victory came after officials repeatedly refused to issue permits for the BoroPride Festival, citing the new ordinance.
Despite the ACLU’s recent win, advocates warn that the story of Murfreesboro represents a new frontier in anti-LGBTQ+ lawmaking. Republican state and local leaders across the US south are reviving vague, sometimes decades-old rules on “indecency” and “obscenity” as a bludgeon against queer life. [Continue reading…]