A sign of freedom in Nashville


December 7, 2015 2:44PM

Take a look at this picture of an Airbnb yard sign. It might not look special, but it’s the only one in Nashville! You heard correctly. When our clients, P.J. and Rachel Anderson, won their preliminary injunction, this is what they won. City officials can’t enforce the part of the law that bans Airbnb signs, and the Andersons are now the only people in Nashville who can display one.

Some background may help. As part of Nashville’s attempt to regulate Airbnb-ers (described here), the City imposed a wholesale ban on Airbnb signs. You can have other signs in your yard (lemonade stands, garage sales, even regular “for rent” signs), but you can’t have any Airbnb signs. This is part of why the Andersons sued. This, the judge said in a preliminary injunction, was likely unconstitutional.

Rightly so. The City doesn’t get to pick what speech it likes. So when the Andersons won the ability to legally put up this simple yard sign, a little bit of life was breathed back into the Constitution. It may seem small, but it’s important. The right to engage in free speech is one of the most basic rights we are guaranteed. Yet, in a sign of the times (pun intended), even free speech is under attack from restless governments who view your basic rights the same way they view fixing a pothole.

Rights are sacred. You don’t shuffle them around as part of the give and take in crafting a law. They aren’t supposed to be on the table at all. That’s the whole point of a Constitution. It contains the laws for making laws.

Maybe yard signs seem minor, but that cuts both ways. If Nashville is willing to trash your free speech rights over something as petty as yard signs, your First Amendment rights are pretty disposable to begin with.

So, for now, the Andersons and only the Andersons can put out signs letting others know their home is available for rent on Airbnb, as well as signs letting guests know they have arrived at the right home when they check in. That’s because the order only covers them, which means the rest of Nashville has to accept speech discrimination. That’s why the photos of these signs are so special. Until and unless the Andersons win their lawsuit (or the City changes the law), free speech is diminished, however incrementally, basically because the City doesn’t like the look of a particular type of yard sign.

So enjoy the view. That’s no ordinary yard sign. That’s the look of freedom’s advance.