City leaders in Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb 30 minutes outside Nashville, narrowly approved a permit for the municipality's LGBTQ Pride festival this year, countering fierce opposition for what has typically been a procedural formality.
Casting the tie-breaker in a 5-4 vote on Tuesday night, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore called for unity among community members.
"It is important that we continue to learn who our neighbors are in Franklin," Moore said to a room filled with hundreds of city residents. "The same First Amendment that we’re talking about tonight for religious groups also applies to the Pride group, and they do have that opportunity to express themselves, and they have the opportunity, if they want, to apply to use our parks."
The resistance to grant a permit for this year's Pride festival in Franklin, a city of roughly 85,000 people, echoes a nationwide backlash against LGBTQ people, or what community opponents called queer "lifestyles."
“A decision about Pride fest is not isolated or in a vacuum. It is part of a social-change agenda that wants to come to Franklin, and we have seen it play out all over the country,” Franklin resident Robin Steenman said. “That agenda is not pro-religion, pro-community, pro-Christianity, pro-family or pro-America. Rather, it seeks the destruction of all of those elements and has been quite successful in many places.”
Perhaps nowhere else in the nation have LGBTQ issues become more of a political flashpoint this year than in Tennessee.
Franklin, Tenn., community members speak out about LGBTQ pride festivalApril 7, 202302:25
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed a first-of-its-kind bill into law last month to restrict certain drag performances, banning the art form in public or at locations where it can be seen by minors. Performers who violate the law more than once can be charged with a felony and sent to prison for up to six years.
A federal judge temporarily halted the law last month, a day before it was set to take effect.
Regardless, Pride organizers in Franklin opted not to allow drag performances at this year's event.
“We decided to not include a drag performance in our festival this year just because it is so sensitive right now,” Clayton Klutts, who is the president of Franklin Pride, told NBC affiliate WSMV of Nashville. “Not because we felt that we had to, but it was just a way to work with the city leaders and get our application approved.”
Lee also signed a bill into law last month that will restrict gender-affirming care for trans minors in the state. Aside from tension over controversial state legislation, things came to a boiling point after a Nashville school shooting last month that left six people dead. Some on the right blamed the massacre on the 28-year-old suspect’s gender identity, including several Franklin community members who spoke out in opposition of the Pride event.
Although Moore approved the festival's permit, he also threatened to revoke his support if organizers disobey public decency ordinances.
“If you violate our trust of this board, I will work as hard, and I’m sure this board will join me in working very hard, to make sure that event never occurs,” Moore said.
Franklin's city board was also scheduled to weigh in on a “community decency” policy Tuesday that would bar “sexually suggestive behavior” and excessive “displays of affection” in public. Board members deferred voting on the measure until their next meeting on April 26.