Tennessee Lawmakers Pursue Sweeping Slate of Anti-LGBTQ Legislation

March 4, 2019 • 9:47 am

NASHVILLE — Tennessee could become the first state in the nation to pass anti-LGBTQ legislation this year, including the next generation of North Carolina’s highly controversial HB2 which opened the door to harassment of transgender people in public places. Tennessee lawmakers are hastily pursuing a slew of anti-LGBTQ bills in hearings taking place this week, including legislation that could lead to harassment of transgender people in public places, undermine the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, and allow businesses and adoption agencies a broad license to discriminate against LGBTQ people, among others. This legislation is at high risk of moving quickly: three of these bills will be heard in committee starting tomorrow.

“These six bills attack our marriages, ability to form families, exist in public spaces, and they even undermine our ability to advocate with our own city governments for protection against discrimination,” said Chris Sanders, executive director of Tennessee Equality Project. “All of them strike at the dignity of LGBTQ people in Tennessee. Adopting any of them would do lasting damage. Religious leaders in our state have spoken out against these bills and called us to work for basic fairness. That’s a project all Tennesseans can get behind.”

“A small group of Tennessee lawmakers appear bound and determined to advance an anti-LGBTQ agenda that is out of step with Tennessee values,” said Kasey Suffredini, President of Strategy for Freedom for All Americans. “These bills target the marriages, families, and basic welfare of Tennesseans’ neighbors, family members, and friends who happen to be LGBTQ. We’ve seen time and again that discrimination comes at a high cost, and Tennessee can’t afford the economic consequences. We urge Tennessee lawmakers to reject state-sponsored discrimination and stop these attacks on LGBTQ people and their families.”

The anti-LGBTQ bills may be a preview of a new wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation. Two of the six Tennessee bills (HB 1152 and HB 836) create a license to discriminate for taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care services to refuse to place children with qualified, loving families, if the family doesn’t share all of the agency’s religious beliefs. Similar laws are already on the books in ten states – five of which just passed in the last two years. Several additional states are considering similar bills this year. HB 1151 would seek to accomplish a similar goal of anti-transgender legislation in years past by putting transgender people at risk of being arrested – with up to a year of jail time – simply for using a restroom or locker room consistent with who they are.

Tennessee Equality Project will host LGBTQ Tennesseans, their families, faith leaders, business owners, and allies at the organization’s annual Lobby Day on Tuesday, March 5th. Visit the new Faces of Freedom storytelling hub to learn about how discrimination impacts real people each and every day, including in the Volunteer State. The new website features more than 350 stories from nearly every state.

  • HB 1152 would allow taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people and their families, among others, and will be heard by the Children & Families Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 5th at 9AM.

  • HB 563 would prohibit cities and state agencies from implementing policies that bar taxpayer funds from being used by businesses, organizations, contractors, and grantees to discriminate against LGBTQ people. HB 563 will be heard by the Commerce committee on Tuesday, March 5th at 1:30PM.

  • HB 1151 would seek to prevent indecent exposure in public places and could prevent transgender people from being able to use a restroom or locker room, and will be heard by the Criminal Justice subcommittee on Wednesday, March 6th at 3:30PM.

  • SB 1304/HB 836 , similar to SB 848/HB 1152, would allow adoption and foster care agencies to turn away qualified Tennesseans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.

  • SB 1282/HB 1369, “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act;” would defy the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and seek to undermine the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

  • SB 1499/HB 1274 would require the Tennessee Attorney General to either pay for legal costs or itself defend discriminatory anti-transgender school policies.

Freedom for All Americans is the bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide. Our work brings together Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; businesses large and small; people of faith; and allies from all walks of life to make the case for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally.

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