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Tennessee Adds Three More Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws to Its Books

Tennessee Adds Three More Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws to Its Books

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee

The state leads the nation in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, "making it increasingly hostile and unlivable" for LGBTQ+ people, says the Human Rights Campaign.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed three more anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law Wednesday, maintaining the state’s status as the leader in that regard.

Lee, a Republican, signed House Bill 239/Senate Bill 1440, which “defines ‘sex’ as a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth,” according to a summary of the legislation on the state website. The Human Rights Campaign calls this “LGBTQ+ Erasure” and says it will have the effect of excluding LGBTQ+ people from state antidiscrimination laws and enabling discrimination against transgender people in rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, restrooms, locker rooms, and more.

Lee also signed HB 1269/SB 466, which protects public school teachers and staff from being disciplined, fired, or sued for not using a student’s chosen pronouns. It also protects school districts from lawsuits. “The use of pronouns by teachers and employees of public schools and [local educational agencies] in an educational setting is a matter of free speech or expression; and a teacher or employee of a public school or LEA should never be compelled to affirm a belief with which the teacher or employee disagrees,” the legislation states.

The third measure, HB 158/SB 102, prohibits public schools, charter schools, public colleges and universities, or state educational authorities from requiring implicit bias training on race or other aspects of identity.

Lee had already signed four anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law this year, and Tennessee has enacted a total of 19 anti-LGBTQ+ laws since 2015, the most of any state, an HRC press release notes. The four signed earlier include a ban on gender-affirming health care for trans youth; a ban on drag shows on public property or in a any venue where they’re accessible to minors; a bill allowing private schools to discriminate against trans student athletes (the state already had a trans-exclusionary law for public school sports); and legislation mandating written parental consent for students to participate in surveys or “family life” programs, or receive health services at school — a law aimed at inclusive sexuality education.

Lawsuits have been filed against the ban on gender-affirming care and the anti-drag law. The latter has been blocked by a court while the suit is heard.

“This entire legislative session, extremist politicians in Tennessee have spent their time attacking the LGBTQ+ community,” HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley said in a press release. “We’re now nearing almost 20 anti-LGBTQ+ laws passed in Tennessee since 2015, making it increasingly hostile and unlivable for LGBTQ+ Tennesseans, and particularly for transgender and nonbinary people. Governor Lee has crafted his own legacy — a legacy stained with discrimination, propaganda, and harm. LGBTQ+ people will not be erased, no matter what Lee and the legislature do. Tennesseans will continue fighting back.”

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