Judge orders Tennessee law enforcement to stand down ahead of Pride event

A federal judge on Friday granted a temporary restraining order to prevent local Tennessee law enforcement from interfering with an upcoming pride celebration. 

The order from District Judge J. Ronnie Greer of the Eastern District of Tennessee, a George W. Bush appointee, comes after Blount County District Attorney General Ryan Desmond wrote a letter warning event organizer Blount Pride and local leaders that a pride festival planned for Saturday in the county “may violate certain criminal statutes within the State of Tennessee.”

Desmond referenced “The Adult Entertainment Act” (AEA), a Tennessee law enacted in March that criminalizes drag performances that take place in public or where children could see them.

“It is my conclusion that violations of the AEA can and will be prosecuted by my office, however it is important to note that we do not prematurely evaluate the facts or evidence related to a potential investigation into possible criminal conduct,” Desmond said in his letter. 

A federal judge ruled the AEA unconstitutional in a separate case earlier this year, finding that it violates freedom of speech protections. Desmond acknowledged the ruling in his letter, but said it only applied to the judicial district where that case occurred. 

“We are relieved that the court has taken action to ensure that law enforcement will not wrongly apply this unconstitutional law,” Blount Pride board president Ari Baker said in a statement after the judge issued the restraining order. “This ruling allows us to fully realize Blount Pride’s goal of creating a safe place for LGBTQ people to connect, celebrate, and share resources. We appreciate the community support and look forward to celebrating with you all on Saturday.” 

The Hill has reached out to the Blount County District Attorney General’s office. 

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