NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The day after a Davidson County judge temporarily struck down a ban on signs in the Tennessee House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House is asking the court to take it back.

Sexton and others named in a First Amendment lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Tennessee over the special session House rules, which included prohibiting any signs from being held in the House gallery or committee rooms, said the initial order by Chancellor Anne C. Martin was in error and should be rescinded. They have asked for a hearing in the next 24 hours on the ruling and want the order removed while the issue is debated in court.

In court filings, Sexton said the Tennessee House of Representatives has had restrictions on signs in the chamber and committee rooms for years, and that the House Chamber is a “nonpublic fora” and thus subject to relaxed constitutional scrutiny, giving them latitude to keep this regulation in place.

Further, the plaintiffs argue Martin abused her discretion by issuing the temporary restraining order, because the initial lawsuit “came nowhere close to establishing that the Sign Regulation violates the constitutional rights to free speech and assembly in every set of circumstances.” To keep that order in place would “hamstring the General Assembly’s ability to maintain order and decorum in its chambers and call into question similar regulations enforced by Congress and States across the nation.”

Sexton also argues the sign regulation is “viewpoint neutral and reasonable” and therefore allowed under the bounds of the First Amendment.

“Tennessee has multiple legitimate reasons for enacting its content-and-viewpoint-neutral Sign Regulation,” Sexton said in the response. “Whether a sign is obscene, inflammatory, or simply distracting, the General Assembly has long recognized that permitting signs in the galleries can disrupt legislative business. That is why the State has regulated the use of signage in the Capitol for years before the court issued the restraining order.”

Sexton also said the sign regulation “preserves the dignity and decorum” of the House and committee rooms, and that the issue was a “self-created emergency” in order to “deprive the Speaker and the House of Representatives the opportunity to defend themselves.”

Sexton asked the temporary restraining order be dissolved or, in the alternative, the Court should issue a stay of the TRO until he and others have an opportunity to defend themselves legally.

The full response is available to read below.

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