In the midst of the coverage of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick was criticized for posting a tweet quoting a Bible verse that states, “A man reaps what he sows.” Lt. Governor Patrick deleted the tweet, but his point was already made. Obviously, the verse was intended as a jab at the LGBT community during this time of mourning and trauma, but the lieutenant governor may have been right – just not in the way he intended.
During the 2015-2016 legislative session, almost 200 anti-LGBT bills were introduced across the country. At least one anti-LGBT bill was on notice during every week of the last Tennessee legislative session. We were told by Republican lawmakers all around the country that counselors should be allowed to turn away LGBT clients, that cities shouldn’t be allowed to protect their LGBT residents if the state doesn’t approve, and that transgender people should be forced, through threats of fines and jail time, to use the wrong bathroom.
These bills communicated loud and clear that our community was not worthy of respect, dignity, or safety. So yes, a man reaps what he sows. And the GOP sowed the seeds of hatred that were reaped in Orlando at 2:00am on Sunday.
And then there were the hollow words on social media – the tweets and Facebook posts talking about how “horribly tragic” this incident was, from the very people who introduced bills that dehumanized LGBT Americans. And even worse are those elected officials who lack the courage to speak out at all. They fear losing votes if they even mention an incident that some will see as a “gay issue.” They have nothing to gain by offering condolences, and they fear they have something to lose.
I attended a vigil in Murfreesboro on Sunday night, and was overwhelmed by the amount of love and support I saw. We need a legislature that reflects that love and support, that builds up our communities instead of tearing them down. We need a legislature that acknowledges the inherent dignity and worth of all Tennesseans, not just the biggest voting blocs. Tennessee is the Volunteer State, and I have seen the Volunteer Spirit in my friends and neighbors. We need to bring that Volunteer Spirit back to the Tennessee State Legislature.
Brandon Thomas is a Tennessee state house candidate for house district 49. His website is www.votebrandonthomas.com. He can be contacted at [email protected]