Press Release

Ballard Spahr Team Wins Repeal of Discriminatory Ordinances and $500K Settlement With Tennessee City

February 9, 2024

Together with the ACLU, ACLU of Tennessee, and Burr & Foreman LLP, a pro bono team from Ballard Spahr attained a highly favorable settlement of a lawsuit against the City of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, over the City’s anti-LGBTQ+ ordinances and policy prohibiting the issuance of event permits to client Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), founder and host of the annual BoroPride Festival.

Last fall, after TEP’s annual BoroPride Festival, several anti-drag, anti-LGBTQ+ activists in Tennessee pressured local lawmakers to stop future Pride events and drag shows. The City Manager issued a city-wide prohibition on granting event permits to TEP, the City Council enacted a discriminatory “decency ordinance,” and at least one local library banned several LGBTQ-friendly books for children and teens. The defense team brought First Amendment, Equal Protection, Bill of Particulars, and other constitutional claims, and sought compensatory and punitive damages under Section 1983. 

A federal court in Nashville issued an early injunction prohibiting enforcement of the statute during this year’s BoroPride Festival in October and scheduled trial on the merits for May 2024. The parties entered into a public settlement agreement in January. 

As part of the settlement, the City has agreed to pay $500,000 to compensate for attorneys’ fees and harm caused, repeal the anti-LGBTQ+ ordinance, revise an earlier discriminatory ordinance, and properly process any future event permit applications from TEP. City Manager Craig Tindall, who issued the ban on TEP permits last year, is prohibited under the terms from reviewing any future TEP permit requests.

The Ballard Spahr team working pro bono on the case comprises litigators Michael P. Robotti, Jacquelyn N. Schell, Catherine I. Seibel, Drew Hensley, Alan White, Ph.D., and Ana María Blanco.

They joined their fellow attorneys on the case in issuing the following statement:

“The government has no right to censor LGBTQ+ people and expression. More important than the monetary recovery, this settlement sends a clear message that the city’s discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community was blatantly unconstitutional and that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated here—or anywhere across the country.”

For additional information, please visit the ACLU Tennessee website.

For media inquiries, please contact Bill Shralow at 215.864.8195.

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