Free Speech is Essential to Our Democracy

Along with the vast majority of Tennesseans, the League of Women Voters of Tennessee hoped that the special session of the state legislature would make meaningful strides to addressing gun safety issues in our state.  We have been disappointed.  Governor Lee and the Tennessee legislature have ignored the public’s demands for steps that would make our lives in this state a bit safer through common sense gun safety measures.  These demands from the public will not be silenced and we urge the state legislature to take responsible action in the upcoming 2024 regular session.

The League of Women Voters values transparency in government and the importance of maintaining civil discourse.  We have seen both of these values eroded during this session. We have seen rules implemented in the House that limit the ability of legislators to fully express their viewpoints and to be penalized for doing so.

Even more troubling, we have seen arbitrary rules implemented by leadership in the House that are intended to limit public access and silence public voices at a time when the concerns of everyday Tennesseans need to be heard. ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of three parents who were deprived of their first amendment rights of free speech when they were ejected from a committee meeting for holding paper signs this past week and Judge Anne Martin has ruled in their favor.  Her ruling will allow spectators observing both committee hearings as well as the General Assembly to continue the long-approved practice of holding their messages up on small hand-held paper signs.

Protecting free speech is essential in our government and disdain for the public is never acceptable in a democracy.  We urge leaders in the General Assembly to pause and reflect how their actions fall short of the expectations of millions of Tennesseans who are depending on them.