Despite opposition from many business interests along with LGBTQ activists, Tennessee legislators are continuing to advance homophobic and transphobic bills that have collectively been dubbed the "Slate of Hate."
The Tennessee House today passed House Bill 1274, which encourages school districts to adopt policies preventing transgender students from using the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, and would require the state attorney general to defend those policies in court. Notably, in neighboring North Carolina, when Roy Cooper (now governor) was attorney general, he refused to defend the infamous anti-LGBTQ House Bill 2, which among other things restricted trans people's use of restrooms in government buildings. The Tennessee Senate is expected to take up a companion bill Wednesday.
"House passage of HB 1274 puts Tennessee on a dangerous path that threatens the basic dignity of transgender students and the hospitality that has been a foundation of our state's economic growth," said a statement issued by Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project. There is still time for our state's leaders to choose a wiser, welcoming approach and we call on them to do so."
"Tennessee lawmakers are playing politics with LGBTQ people's lives by voting in favor of discrimination," added Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. "It is shameful to watch elected leaders ignore the human impact and economic consequences of discrimination. Like all Americans, the vast majority of Tennesseans want to see their LGBTQ neighbors treated with dignity and respect. We urge the Senate to reject legislation that targets transgender young people."
Also today, the Senate approved HB 1151, which had already been passed by the House, clarifies that the state's indecent exposure law includes incidents that occur in restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and similar facilities. It now goes to Gov. Bill Lee for his signature. This measure has been stripped of the overtly anti-trans passages it once contained, but Tennessee LGBTQ activists are still concerned about it.
"Legislators have noted that it merely codifies existing law concerning indecent exposure," Sanders said. "If that is the case, there was no reason to proceed with the bill, especially if there is the possibility that it could lead to harassment of transgender people. Governor Lee should veto this bill."
The Senate today punted on another anti-LGBTQ bill, though, deferring action on discriminatory adoption legislation until next year. In early April the House passed its version of the bill, which would allow faith-based adoption agencies, even those that receive state funds, to discriminate against people who pose a conflict with the agency's religious beliefs, including same-sex couples, members of other faiths, and more. "We applaud the Senate on this action, which gives the state a chance to evaluate all the implications of this discriminatory bill that prolongs the wait of children and youth for a loving home," Sanders said.
More than 100 business leaders have signed an open letter organized by the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Freedom for All Americans opposing the slate of anti-LGBTQ bills, including AllianceBernstein, Amazon, Bridgestone Americas, Dell Technologies, Genesco, Lyft, Nashville Predators, Nissan, Postmates, Salesforce, Tennessee Titans, and Warner Music Group. Also, many clergy members from throughout the state have signed a statement opposing the anti-LGBTQ bills, and singer Taylor Swift has given $113,000 to the Tennessee Equality Project to fight the legislation.