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Federal judge bars Tennessee prosecutor from enforcing anti-drag law in Blount Pride case
"[T]he Court will grant Plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order."
U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer barred the Blount County, Tennessee, prosecutor and law enforcement in the county from enforcing the state’s new anti-drag law in advance of this weekend’s Blount Pride.
In issuing the temporary restraining order against District Attorney General Ryan Desmond, the county sheriff, and the two police chiefs in the county, Greer, a George W. Bush appointee, also barred the officials from “interfering” with the Sept. 2 pride festival “by any means.”
A TRO is, as apparent from its name, temporary. A hearing on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction against the anti-drag “Adult Entertainment Act,” which would last throughout the litigation, is set for Sept. 8.
As such, and since TROs are not generally appealable, this is likely the end of the matter as to Blount Pride, since the event is on Saturday.
Despite a June ruling in a federal case out of Shelby County declaring the state’s anti-drag law to be unconstitutional, Desmond set in motion this week’s events when he sent a “notice” to Blount Pride’s organizers, the local law enforcement, and others detailing “concerns” about whether the event would violate the anti-drag law, noting his conclusion that the law is constitutional and remained enforceable in Blount County, and announcing his intent to prosecute any violations.
Blount Pride and Matthew Lovegood, aka Flamy Grant — the drag queen scheduled to perform at Blount Pride — sued a day later.
Although Desmond later argued in court that his letter “is not an enforcement warning letter,” Greer wasn’t buying it. “But his reading of his own notice is a selective one, because throughout the notice, he warns would-be violators of the Act of his authority and his intention to prosecute them under the Act,” Greer wrote, citing four selections from the letter and the fact that the letter was also sent to law enforcement.
Although Greer did not address the question — disputed by the parties — of whether Desmond is covered by the declaration that the law is unconstitutional in the case out of Shelby County, Greer held up that ruling, from U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, as “well-written, scrupulously researched, and highly persuasive“ and stated that he “is likely to adopt Judge Parker’s reasoning in addressing the constitutional questions that Plaintiffs raise in their complaint.”
After siding with the plaintiffs on other factors as well, Greer granted the TRO. Here is the main part of Greer’s order:
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