Rights are too important to be left to the courts

chris editorial for web.jpg

by Chris Sanders

The one thing I would beg for in the new year is this: When anti-LGBTQ bills are filed in Tennessee, please don't respond "Well, that's just unconstitutional. It will get overturned."

We have entered a time in which we can no longer be certain that discriminatory bills won’t pass. Neither can we be certain that the courts will rule in our favor.

The oral arguments in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case before the Supreme Court leave many of us with a sense of fear about that impending decision. Just recently the Supreme Court also declined to take up the case against Mississippi’s anti-LGBTQ law because of standing issues, leaving it in place for now. So that means people will have to be harmed before the courts will even consider the matter. In the meantime, the President is reshaping the judiciary with anti-equality jurists.

If an anti-LGBTQ bill does become law, of course, we must challenge it in court, even though the outcome is uncertain. We would be foolish not to do so. Many of our community’s greatest victories have come through the courts.

But rather than become lawyers on Facebook, we need to change our attitude and become legislative advocates. When large numbers of us make a convincing argument, we can beat these bad bills. There’s no need to wait for them to pass and wonder whether we will get justice in the courts. In fact, it is our responsibility when a threatening beast of a bill appears in our backyard to run it off and not simply hope that the courts will do something down the road.

Take some inspiration from the almost 100 people who showed up in red against the Hamblen County anti-marriage equality resolution on December 21. Written off as hopelessly conservative by many, this county’s residents nevertheless showed up and quashed an attack on the dignity of the LGBTQ community.

I don’t want to wait and see what the courts might do. I ask you to put your faith in what you can do now.


Chris Sanders is the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project.