Memphis, TN – Tennessee state lawmakers were considering a bill that would have made it illegal for citizens to wear hoods in public, but the bill’s sponsor has pulled the legislation for revisions due to backlash from the community.
The intention behind the initial bill was to prohibit people from concealing their identities, and would have barred the use of any items that would cover any portion of their faces, WTVF reported.
The law would have applied to all public spaces, and would have also made it illegal to wear masks, hoods, or other facial-concealment items on private property without the property owner’s permission.
Masks or similar items used for holiday celebrations, sports activities, masquerade balls, parades, theatrical productions, emergency situations, and certain occupations would have still been permitted under the legislation.
Violators of the misdemeanor offense would have faced up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine, WTVF reported.
State Representative Bud Hulsey, who sponsored the bill, said the proposed law change was aimed at helping law enforcement officers curb potential violent acts at demonstrations and rallies where participants might attempt to conceal their identities in order to get away with committing violent acts.
University of Memphis student Jalan Veasley said he believes the bill unjustly targeted racial minorities.
“As an African-American, I feel like some laws are traditionally targeted towards minorities, and I feel like this is probably one of those laws,” Veasley told WREG.
University of Memphis Constitutional Law Professor Steve Mulroy said that the legislation could potentially violate citizens’ Constitutional rights.
“We don’t have an affirmative obligation to always show our face when we’re in public,” Mulroy told WREG.
“It would be one thing if it was narrowly targeted on highly sensitive, secure areas like governmental buildings or large public events where there were heightened security concerns,” he added, “but as a general blanket matter, you can’t, consistent with our privacy rights, say you’re not allowed to cover your face up in public.”
Hulsey said he pulled the bill in order to make modifications that will make the legislation “much more specific,” WTVF reported.
The new version should be completed by Feb. 5, Hulsey said.
“When people read the bill, the confusion has been huge. [Like] I’m trying to tell people how they can dress. That’s not the intent of the bill at all,” Hulsey told WTVF. “Legal thought that it should be a broader brush. That’s where the verbiage came from for hoodies and everything. The intent is still there. To mask your identity to get away with committing a crime.”