Judge blocks rule banning signs after lawsuit over group removed from Tenn. special session

Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 10:17 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2023 at 11:42 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Tennessee judge agreed Wednesday to temporarily block a new rule advanced by state House Republicans that banned the public from holding signs during floor and committee proceedings after three people with signs urging gun control were kicked out of a hearing Tuesday.

This comes after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Tennessee residents who were kicked out of the Tennessee Capitol on Tuesday.

A whole room was cleared during the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, including parents from the Covenant School, for clapping and holding up signs.

ACLU leaders say the removal violated their First Amendment rights.

Republicans, who have a supermajority control in the House, advanced the new rule this week during a special session that was called by Gov. Bill Lee in reaction to a Nashville school shooting in March.

A hearing on the temporary injunction has been scheduled for Sept. 5. However, lawmakers are expected to adjourn by Thursday.

“These rules are unreasonable,” said ACLU-TN Legal Director Stella Yarbrough. “The Tennessee House’s ban on silently holding signs in House galleries directly undermines Tennesseans’ First Amendment right to express their opinions on issues that affect them and their families.”

The lawsuit, Polidor et al. v. Sexton et. al., was filed in the Chancery Court for Davidson County on behalf of Tennessee residents Allison Polidor, Erica Bowton and Maryam Abolfazli.

“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.”

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