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The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –
Despite the fact that Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has not actually banned public homosexuality, a slew of recent news media headlines has led many people to believe otherwise.
On Thursday, Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom (CA) took to social media, sharing an article by The New Republic titled, “A City in Tennessee Banned Public Homosexuality—and We All Missed It.”
“A city in Tennessee has banned being gay in public,” wrote Newsom. “This is just the beginning. We have to call this out.”
The article in question claims that Murfreesboro recently passed an ordinance “essentially prohibiting homosexuality in public.”
But what exactly happened in Murfreesboro that resulted in so many headlines claiming that the city has gone so far as to ban homosexuals?
Well back in June of this year, the city adopted a new ordinance on “community decency,” meant to encourage public decency and family-friendly environments in public spaces.
The ordinance included “sexual conduct” as a type of indecent behavior. However, it did not redefine the term, instead using the phrase “sexual conduct” as defined by previously established city code.
One such code was established in 1949 on “Public Indecency” and another was established in 1977 on “Exposing Minors to Harmful Materials.” Both defined “sexual conduct” as “acts of masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks or, if such person be a female, breast.”
While it is always possible for there to be an agenda behind the wording of a law, it is also possible that this new city ordinance was worded this way simply to avoid the extra step of changing an old definition.
A November 2nd meeting agenda for the Murfreesboro City Council even notes that “the term homosexuality is an anachronism unenforceable under current law” and that the new ordinance and the 1977 ordinance “appears to have copied” the code from 1949.
The word “homosexuality” was officially removed from the city’s definition of “sexual conduct” on November 17th, 2023.
Given the fact that Murfreesboro is quite a large suburb of Nashville, its residential demographic is not as overtly “old-fashioned” or even as “conservative” as many news media publications and non-Tennesseans seem to believe.
According to some news media like The Associated Press, the city specifically designed this ordinance “to ban drag performances from taking place on public property,” even though there is already state law on indecent behavior which does essentially the same thing.
There have also been claims that not only is homosexuality “banned” in Murfreesboro, but offenders could also end up in jail for simply being perceived as homosexual or being in a homosexual relationship.
This is not inherently accurate, or at least not the most viable outcome according to the penalties for violation, which state that violators will be barred from hosting public events or selling goods and services at public events for two years, or five years if the offense takes place in the presence of minors.
These penalties are meant to supplement existing civil and criminal sanctions for indecent behavior.
About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Adelia at email@example.com.