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Legal challenges keeping some laws from taking effect in Tennessee

From WKRN in Nashville: While the Tennessee General Assembly is empowered to pass laws, not every law passed is able to move forward as written. S

From WKRN in Nashville: While the Tennessee General Assembly is empowered to pass laws, not every law passed is able to move forward as written. Some laws get tied up in court over legal challenges, as is the case with a couple bills passed this legislative session.


Two bills passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee have been partially or fully blocked from taking effect while the court system handles separate legal challenges to them.


SB 0003, known to many as the “anti-drag” law, was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor March 3. The bill modifies current obscenity laws to include “male or female impersonators” as “adult cabaret performances” and prohibit them from taking place on any public property or even private property “where the performance could be viewed by someone who is not an adult.”


The law was set to take effect April 1, but a lawsuit brought by a Memphis based LGBTQ-friendly theater company, Friends of George’s, brought a halt on the enforcement of the law. The group asked for a temporary restraining order against the law, which was granted by a federal judge hours before it was set to go into effect.


Initially the TRO was granted for 14 days, but Judge Thomas L. Parker extended it through May 26.


According to court documents, a preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for May 22.


The other law currently blocked by the courts is the “Metro Council Reduction Act,” or SB 0087. The law requires any metropolitan government be comprised of no more than 20 members total and said any metro government with more than 20 members must reduce its size by next general election.


The Metro Council General Election is slated for Aug. 3, though the election season began prior to the bill’s passage, Metro leaders said.


Metro Nashville sued, stating the deadline imposed by the law was impractical and would “cause chaos” within the city of Nashville, as it also required the Metro Planning Department to issue brand new district maps for a reduced council size within a 30-day time frame.


A three-judge panel granted a stay of the law, preventing Metro from having to immediately pass new maps. The panel, comprised of Chancellors Jerry S. Brant and Patricia Head Moskal and Judge Mary L. Wagner, agreed with Metro that it would be better to maintain the status quo and continue with a standard 40-member council election this year while the case worked its way through the courts.


With the stay, Metro will not have to comply with the reduced size law until at least 2027, when the next council election takes place.


Another law currently being challenged is SB 0001, which prohibits gender-affirming care for minors. The legislation was the top priority for the Republican supermajority, with GOP leaders saying the purpose of the bill was about protecting children from receiving permanent procedures that would affect them for the rest of their lives.


LGBTQ groups, including Lambda Legal and the ACLU have filed suit against the state for the law, claiming it violates constitutional rights of trans teens and their parents. They filed the complain on behalf of three Tennessee families and one Memphis-based doctor. In their complaint, the organizations ask for a permanent injunction against the law, thus preventing it from being enforced.


Without a preliminary injunction against the law, it will take effect July 1.