The very first order of business for the Tennessee State Senate was SB1306, better known as the Adoption Discrimination Bill, which allow private adoption agencies to both receive state funds and turn away prospective taxpaying parents away based on the agency’s beliefs. This is primarily aimed at LGBTQ people, but would also affect the ability of Jews, Muslims, Atheists, etc. to utilize state-funded services. It would also work to keep more kids in the system and out of loving homes.
NOTE: Our cover image for this story was first used by us in 2011. It’s a sad statement.
The House version of the Bill passed in 2019, so now the only thing preventing it from becoming law is a veto by the governor—which in Tennessee can be overturned by a 50% vote, but which could change the shape of the debate. The Tennessee Equality Project is urging people to start calling the Governor and asking him to veto SB1306 at (615) 741-2001 or write him at https://www.tn.gov/governor/contact-us.html.
The outcome wasn’t particularly surprising, though the speed and priority the bill took did take some people off guard. In the other direction, there was a surprising amount of Republican dissent, with multiple Republican senators vigorously debating the measure. Lt. Governor Randy McNally left the speaker’s chair to debate against the bill and joined four other senators in voting present in a kind of weak protest.
Only Republican Senator Steve Dickerson joined Democrats in voting no. Dickerson, arguing from the business perspective, said his research showed the measure would cost the state a huge amount of revenue. He believes that this bill will cost Tennessee many high-profile events, as well as corporate relocations. Other Republicans argued that existing protections of “conscience” were strenuous enough.
Democratic Senator Jeff Yarbro, the Senate Minority Leader, attempted to amend the bill to protect only privately funded agencies, not those receiving state funds, but his amendment failed. The future of this bill, the rights of LGBTQI citizens, and the financial future of the State of Tennessee now rest with Governor Lee.
Unfortunately, this is also not the end of the new “Slate of Hate” we face in Tennessee. Today, the Tennessee Equality Project sent out the following information:
What else can we expect this session? Some old bills will be back and we will see some news ones:
•The Business License to Discriminate bill (SB364 by Sen. Rose) has already passed the House floor. It will be up for consideration in the Senate State and Local Government Committee in the new year. The bill prohibits local governments and public entities from preferring companies with good workplace practices or taking adverse action against those with bad workplace policies. For example, if the bill passed, neither the University of Tennessee nor the City of Maryville could award more points in contract bidding to companies that have sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies.
•Anti-transgender student bathroom bill (SB1499 by Sen. Hensley) has already passed the House. It is up for consideration in the Senate State and Local Government Committee in the new year. This bill requires that the Attorney General’s office and resources be made available to defend local school districts that engage in anti-transgender discrimination.
•Another bill we are likely to see in the new year is a bill attacking the state’s hate crime law. The state’s hate crime law explicitly includes sexual orientation. Based on a 2019 Attorney General opinion, it includes gender identity via the word “gender” in the statute. It is possible that the far Right will try to advance a bill that either removes the word “gender” or defines to mean “sex based on one’s birth certificate” or something like that to make it trans-exclusive.
•Bans on transgender youth healthcare. Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky are looking at limiting medical gender affirmation interventions for transgender minors. Georgia is even looking at felony charges for healthcare providers. Read more at this link —> https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/gop-lawmakers-three-states-want-ban-trans-health-care-minors-n1075361. Such a bill could hit Tennessee; a legislator hinted as much a few years ago, but it didn’t materialize at the time.
•The Family Action Council of Tennessee recently launched the “God-Given Marriage” initiative at https://www.godgivenmarriage.com/ as a new way to challenge the Obergefell Supreme Court marriage ruling of 2015. The bill will be called Marital Contract at Common Law Recording Act .
•One of the latest proposals is by Rep. Griffey. It would attempt to ban transgender students from participation in athletics based on the sex designation on their birth certificates.
•There is talk of a bill that would interfere with the non-discrimination provisions of business contracts, too.