While there are a number of anti-LGBT bills floating in Tennessee’s General Assembly, this week’s committee schedule has rights groups sounding the alarm. Three anti-LGBTQ bills—House Bills 563, 1152 and 1151—are heading for committee hearings this week for votes that could bring Tennessee one step closer to passing these discriminatory bills.

The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) is spearheading the local response to these anti-LGBT bills. They are encouraging everyone to send emails to lawmakers on the committees in question, and to call the bills’ sponsors and committee members to voice opposition. Next Tuesday is also the second Day on the Hill for this legislative session, and a strong showing there could make a big difference.

Extremely important is for our community to have a visible presence. The organization informed members: “We encourage you to attend these important votes.  Wear red if you can to show that you are part of the group opposing these bills.” TEP has set up Facebook events for each bill: HB 563 (Tuesday afternoon, the business license to discriminate), HB 1152 (Tuesday morning, adoption discrimination), and HB 1151 (Wednesday afternoon, criminalizing trans people’s use of facilities).

Other rights groups are lining up with the TEP to oppose this legislation. HRC’s Marty Rouse’s communication focused on the economic impact of hate, reminding lawmakers of North Carolina. “We all remember the egregiousness and economic backlash of North Carolina’s HB2; which resulted in North Carolina’s loss of over $630M in business. The Slate of Hate that anti-equality lawmakers are pushing is one that Tennessee simply cannot afford.”

Meanwhile, Americans United for Separation of Church and State is actively encouraging members to join TEP’s activists in wearing red to fight HB 1152—the adoption bill—on Tuesday morning. This bill, wrote Charles Sumner, president of the Nashville Chapter, “allow adoption agencies – including those receiving public funding – to discriminate against parents and children based on the religious views of the agency. As we’ve seen in South Carolina with our client Aimee Maddonna, policies like this are being used by taxpayer-funded agencies to unconstitutionally discriminate against prospective foster parents and volunteers. No child should be denied an opportunity for a loving, stable home when one is available to them.”

Freedom For All Americans’ State Campaigns Team summarized the human cost of these bills: “Under HB 1152, taxpayer-subsidized agencies could refuse to help a child placed with them because of a prospective parent’s religion or because they are LGBTQ. And under HB 563, governments would be barred from taking action against discriminatory business practices. And HB 1151 could send transgender people to jail for up to a year simply for using the restroom.”

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have declared war on the LGBT community in this state, and a coalition of organizations is working with TEP to help defeat these bills before they become laws that could impact our community for decades to come. But they need your help: bodies in seats, wearing red proudly, will send the message that the LGBT community and its allies will not simply give up on its rights.

 

More information on the bills (from HRC):

HB 1152 will be heard in Children & Families Subcommittee on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. This bill would license discrimination in the provision of child welfare services by allowing state contractors who provide taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care services to refuse to make child placements with qualified, loving families, if the family doesn’t share all of the agency’s religious beliefs.

HB 563—also known as the “Business License to Discriminate bill”—will be heard in the Commerce Committee at 1:30 p.m.

HB 1151, a bill that would put transgender and non-binary people at risk of criminal penalties (including up to a year in jail!) for using restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, will be heard in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. (Not even HB2 included explicit criminal penalties!)