A public ordinance mandate in Tennessee effectively banning homosexuality could see all LGBTQ+ books removed from a local library.
City officials in Murfreesboro, Tennessee met on Monday (6 November) to discuss removing all books featuring LGBTQ+ themes under an ordinance passed in June.
The ordinance prohibits “indecent behaviour” in public and outlaws “indecent materials” which are vague enough to include homosexuality.
It states that the local community has “the right to establish and preserve contemporary community standards” which would ban behaviour that local officials deem indecent.
The clause used to define indecency links back to Murfreesboro’s city codes which describe “sexual conduct” as indecent. The sexual conduct clause includes “homosexuality”.
The ordinance gives police officers the right to enforce bans on indecent behaviour under the clause and states that anybody using city funds for events that fall under indecency can be charged with further crimes.
City officials have since used the passed ordinance to target the LGBTQ+ community, including by removing books from the Rutherford County Library Board that contain queer themes.
Multiple board members reportedly claimed they had the right to “enforce community standards” and ban books they deemed indecent.
In August, library board officials decided to remove four titles: Mike Curato’s Flamer, Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan’s Let’s Talk About It, Jennifer Knapp’s Queerfully & Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens and Juno Dawson‘s This Book is Gay.
The board then implemented a tiered library card system where most LGBTQ+ nonfiction could only be accessed through an adult-only library card.
Judge temporarily blocks Tennessee public ordinance for drag event
The ordinance made national headlines after officials attempted to enforce a ban on the BoroPride festival in October.
A federal judge was forced to temporarily block city officials from using the ordinance to ban BoroPride from taking place on 28 October, after the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Tennessee Equality Project, which has hosted the Pride festival since 2016.
“We are relieved that the court has taken action to ensure that Murfreesboro’s discriminatory ordinance will not be enforced during the BoroPride festival,” Tennessee Equality Project director Chris Sanders said.
“We look forward to a safe, joyful celebration of Murfressboro’s LGBTQ+ community.”
Tennessee is considered to be one of the worst places in the US to identify as LGBTQ+ according to various human rights groups including the Human Rights Campaign, which labelled it as a “high priority” state in fighting to achieve basic equality.
Independent journalist Erin Reed has identified Tennessee as among the worst states for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, alongside Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida. She described state officials as attempting to “legislatively erase trans people”.
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