New Murfreesboro Law Against ‘Indecent Behavior’ Criticized as Vague, Homophobic

The city of Murfreesboro in central Tennessee has banned public displays of sexual behavior, including “behaviors, materials or events that are patently offensive to the adult community,” which is punishable by law. Here’s the whole story.

Indecent Behavior

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The ordinance outlawing “indecent behavior” in public and prohibiting “indecent materials,” recently reported by journalist Erin Reed, is “alarmingly vague” and could lead to arrests for public displays of affection like two men holding hands.

Contemporary Community Standards

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City ordinance 23-0-22 states that local lawmakers have “the right to establish and preserve contemporary community standards.”

The definition used in the new law is based on a longtime city statute that explicitly bans public homosexuality or materials that promote homosexuality.

The Police Have the Authority to Take Actions

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Local lawmakers have given police the authority to crack down on violations they deem offensive to “community standards.”

The Ordinance

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“No person shall knowingly, while in a public space, engage in indecent behavior,” the ordinance read while reserving special mention for violations that “subject minors to a prurient interest or to behaviors.”

Its Definition

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The ordinance defines “sexual conduct” as “acts of self-stimulation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks or if such a person is female breast.”

The Initial Target

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The new municipal code initially targeted Pride events in the city. 

However, local lawmakers are now deploying the ordinance to ban books with LGBTQ+ content from the city library system.

The Banned Books

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In August, library officials banned four books from Murfreesboro libraries based on the ordinance, including “Flamer,” “Let’s Talk About It,” “Queerfully and Wonderfully Made,” and “This Book Is Gay.”

The Discussion

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Following that successful effort, a steering committee met on Monday to discuss a new resolution that would ban all books in the library that could violate the ordinance.

The Criticism

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The plan by committee members claiming an obligation to protect children and a right to “enforce community standards” encountered opposition from community members dedicated to free speech.

The Challenge

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Citing a challenge to the law already underway in the courts, local activist Kari Lambert criticized the committee, asking members, “When have the people who ban books ever been the good guys?”

The Public Shared Their Views

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Several online users expressed their thoughts on the incident.

One user wrote, “It sounds like, the way it’s worded, a man and woman kissing would be legal. Whereas two gay people kissing would not. Which is indeed homophobic.”

What Are They Defining Specifically?

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Another user added, “But what are they defining specifically as “acts of homosexuality”? That can mean anything from two guys eating in public or holding hands to straight-up gay intercourse…what are they gonna do, stop any two people of the same sex that are eating together?.”

Self-Police and Self-Censor

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A third user commented, “The entire point of laws like this is for them to be vague so no one actually knows what is and isn’t allowed. They rely on people being too afraid to want to try to find out what the dividing line is, so they self-police and self-censor.

The post New Murfreesboro Law Against ‘Indecent Behavior’ Criticized as Vague, Homophobic first appeared on Wealthy Living.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / WitthayaP.  The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.