A Davidson County judge has blocked enforcement of a Tennessee House of Representatives rule for the special session that bans signs in the galleries of the House.
The ruling comes in a response to an ACLU of Tennessee lawsuit filed on behalf of three Tennesseans who were forced to leave a Tennessee House subcommittee hearing on Tuesday by state troopers for quietly holding 8 ½ x 11-inch pieces of paper expressing their opinions on issues before the subcommittee.
“I have a close friend whose son was a third grader at The Covenant School last year. I spent most of the day on March 27, 2023, not knowing whether my friend’s son was dead or alive. He survived, but his life, and so many others, will forever be marked by this tragedy,” said plaintiff Allison Polidor. “On August 22, 2023, I joined with so many other moms from across Tennessee to urge our lawmakers to enact common sense gun laws. I was removed for peacefully holding a small sign and exercising my First Amendment rights. What started as a debate on gun safety has morphed into a blatant violation of my First Amendment rights.”
The plaintiffs were forced out under rules adopted by the Tennessee House of Representatives for the special session that banned signs in the galleries of the House of Representatives, denying the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to speak freely, assemble, and petition the government under the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions.
The emergency injunction blocks enforcement of the sign rule while the lawsuit proceeds.
“We applaud the court for taking swift action to protect the free speech rights of Tennesseans. Democracy depends on people’s ability to express their opinions to their elected representatives on issues they care about, and this unreasonable rule stood in the way of people fully participating in the democratic process,” said ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Kathryn Sinback.