The Look in Brief

Judge issues injunction against Tennessee House, barring enforcement of sign ban

By: - August 23, 2023 9:44 am
Jennifer Watson holds up a sign of the type that was banned during an Aug. 2021 special legislative session. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Jennifer Watson holds up a sign of the type that was banned during an Aug. 2021 special legislative session. (Photo: John Partipilo)


Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Anne Martin issued a restraining order on Wednesday, barring the Tennessee House of Representatives from enforcing a rule banning signs during the special session on public safety.

A temporary injunction hearing has been set to hear the ACLU lawsuit on Sept. 5.


The ACLU of Tennessee, representing three women ejected from a legislative subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, has filed suit against House leaders, alleging rules restricting the holding of signs in the House of Representatives violate Constitutionally-guaranteed free speech and assembly rights.

The suit, filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, seeks an emergency restraining order against enforcement of the rule.

On Monday, at the outset of a specially-called legislative session on public safety, the Tennessee House of Representatives adopted the rules barring flags, signs and banners in House galleries.

House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland said, under these rules, signs on 8½ x 11-inch sheets of paper would be barred in committee meetings, too.

On Tuesday, three women — Allison Polidor, Erica Bowton and Maryam Abolfazli — were escorted out of a Tennessee House subcommittee hearing. The women, all mothers of young children, held small signs that said “1 KID > ALL THE GUNS.”

“These rules are unreasonable,” said ACLU-TN Legal Director Stella Yarbrough in a statement. “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 suit names House Speaker Cameron Sexton, Chief Clerk Tammy Letzler, Sergeant-At-Arms Bobby Trotter and Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Matt Perry.

Restraining Order
1-Polidor-v.-Sexton-Complaint (1)

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee.