Today the Tennessee House Criminal Justice Subcommittee heard House Bill 1151, which was sponsored by Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), as originally written, would, as GLSEN summarized, “grossly expand the state’s existing indecent exposure law to specifically target and criminalize transgender people, and could affect transgender students in locker rooms, bathrooms, or other school facilities.” Ragan, who has sponsored many hate-bills, infamously wrote to a constituent that “a gay person is not a ‘mentally healthy adult human being’.”
Appearing before the committee, Ragan explained that he was amending the bill to remove some language and to clarify certain issues. Specifically, the amendment removes the language “is a member of the opposite sex than the sex designated for use” in relation to facilities, as well as the sections about gender dysphoria and “gender confusion.”
Shortly Ragan began to explain that the background for the bill was the Obama administrations ruling protecting transgender students and the potential risk to federal funding for schools raised by activists. At this point, a subcommittee member, Rep. Curcio, points out that Ragan’s discussion (beginning at 1:45 below) is not relevant to the bill as amended since there is no reference in the bill to policies regarding trans people.
Before Ragan could continue his diatribe, Rep. Andrew Farmer, the chairman of the subcommittee encouraged Ragan to keep his explanations “tight” (2:25) – which seemed to mean not to say something that would be an admission that the true intent of the original bill was to harm the LGBT community and its individual members.
Ultimately, the committee did pass the bill as amended, after a vigorous interrogation of the true motives of, and necessity for, such a bill by Rep. Antonio Parkinson. Representatives Parkinson and Camper would be the sole votes against passing the legislation on to the full committee.
Nevertheless, the activism organized by local groups, particularly the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), does seem to have prevailed, in that one of the most viciously anti-trans laws in the country has been rendered toothless by its own sponsor under public pressure.
Chris Sanders, executive director of TEP, announced this development and thanked those who came out: “Pressure on the bill has certainly had an effect. We’re grateful to the group who showed up in red.”
Here is the full text of the bill, as amended: