Two Anti-LGBT Bills Advance in Tennessee; Lawmakers Must Reject Discrimination

By Megan Clayton • April 7, 2016 • 12:10 pm

Two weeks ago we celebrated the Tennessee House Education Administration & Planning Committee’s decision to send HB 2414 – an invasive bill that restricts transgender children and students from using the restroom of the gender they live as each day – to “summer study,” meaning it would not become law during the current legislative session.

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Unfortunately, on Wednesday the committee reversed its decision and advanced the bill, bringing it one step closer to becoming law.

Both House Bill 2414 and its Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 2387, will require students to prove that their gender matches the gender that is on their birth certificate as a condition for using the restroom. As with similar measures seen around the country, this invasive “Gender Check Bill” does not describe how school officials are to determine if a student’s gender matches the sex on their original birth certificate – and so it could mean that schools would be forced to employ a variety of invasive tests to determine the gender of each student, such as collecting DNA or performing physical examinations before a student is allowed to use the restroom. Our Executive Director Matt McTighe expressed his disappointment that legislators have reversed course and decided to advance this divisive legislation: “It’s disappointing that legislators have decided to ignore what educators, law enforcement officers and legal experts have said: gender inspection bills are unnecessary, costly and dangerous. More importantly, gender inspection legislation further isolates transgender students and can open these students up to health problems and bullying.”

That Tennessee lawmakers have decided to consider HB 2414 in the wake of the economic backlash currently rocking North Carolina is baffling. In North Carolina, an extreme legislature passed HB 2—which invalidates municipalities’ local anti-discrimination ordinances and codifies anti-transgender policies into state law—and the backlash has been severe. Tennessee is now treading in the same unwise territory.

According to the Tennessee Dept. of Education, the measure threatens $1 billion in federal funding.  Schools across the state could also divert millions of dollars from the classroom to fund expensive lawsuits and administrative challenges. Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s office has also expressed concern over the state losing federal funding because of these gender inspection bills. Specifically, this bill conflicts with federal nondiscrimination laws and thus threatens $682K in Title IX education funding.

Just as they have in North Carolina, Tennessee businesses and business groups are starting to worry about how this legislation reflects on the state’s business climate. Indeed, the state’s reputation may already be taking a hit, according to Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. president and CEO Butch Spyridon:

“When the state starts introducing legislation that affects our ability to do business, it is not helpful and needs to be rethought. Our success in the hospitality industry is predicated on a welcoming and friendly environment. We don’t need to do anything to diminish or hinder the success that is driving the state’s economy.”

Just this two days ago, PayPal canceled a planned expansion that would’ve brought 400+ jobs to North Carolina because of that state’s new anti-LGBT law. If Tennessee passes HB 2414, into law businesses could similarly scale back investments or pull out entirely.

The gender inspection bill is unfortunately the second anti-LGBT measure to advance in the Tennessee legislature today. Earlier this morning, the Senate voted in favor of a religious refusal bill that would allow counselors to refuse helping patients due to a “sincerely held religious belief.”

McTighe also condemned this shameful bill, explaining:

“No one should be denied important mental health care services or the right to use the restroom just because of who they are. We call on Gov. Haslam to exert his leadership and stop these dangerous bills from ever becoming law.”


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