Blow-up doll in East Nashville leads to First Amendment debate

(Courtesy: Brett Withers)


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A debate over a blow-up doll displayed in an East Nashville home has made its way to city officials.

Councilman Brett Withers spotted the inflatable novelty in a home back in August. It had been put on display by a bachelor party that had rented the private residence for the weekend.

Withers says he took a picture of the doll, sent it to the Metro Codes Department and a violation was issued for “obscene” material.

But the homeowner and his lawyer came to the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Thursday to defend the doll and asked that the violation be voided.

“I don’t think it’s obscene at all,” said homeowner Jeffrey Stoner. “But I understand that some people do so it was taken down immediately.”

At stake could be Stoner’s short-term rental permit, which allows him to rent his home on sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Nashville has a three-strike system. Each violation counts as a “strike” against the permit. After three strikes, the permit is taken away.

Stoner’s lawyer contended that not only is the doll not obscene, but it’s protected by the First Amendment.

“It’s only an issue because it’s at a short-term rental property,” said Stoner’s attorney Jamie Hollin.

But a group of people showed up at the Board of Zoning Appeals to ask to keep the violation in place.

“There are kids playing in that area at all hours,” said resident Pat Williams. “If you all don’t see this as a violation, then it will give the message that anyone can do what they want.”

The Board motioned to keep the violation in place but it didn’t get a majority vote.

Two board members who weren’t at Thursday’s meeting will be able to review the case in two weeks.