Tennessee’s assault on LGBT rights has stalled for another year with its infamous Don’t Say Gay bill having died in the House, while several other pieces of hostile legislation languish in committee.
Don’t Say Gay, Just Betray LGBT Kids
LGBT rights groups and, in fact, educators throughout Tennessee will be relieved to know that Tennessee’s deplorable “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB 1332) died in the House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday this past week.
The brainchild of now-Senator Stacey Campfield, who has introduced the bill in over three consecutive sessions despite education authorities testifying that there is simply no need for the legislation, would make it illegal for teachers to discuss LGBT identity and all forms of sexuality and gender identity with kids outside of what the bill dubiously terms “natural reproduction.”
The Senate version of the bill carried an extra bit of nastiness this year by mandating that school counselors and faculty essentially out to parents kids whom they suspect to be gay or trans. Legislators hoped to amend the House version in a similar fashion.
Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge, the House sponsor of the bill, told the AP that he found the committee’s failure to advance the legislation disappointing because he “thought it was a good bill,” adding, “it was about school safety.”
Apparently the risk of gay or trans kids being affirmed that they are not sinful or disease ridden is something certain lawmakers cannot abide and so within the bill were clauses that school administrators could take reasonable measures to censure a child “who is engaging in, or who may be at risk of engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student or another person” or “respond appropriately” if a students’ “circumstances present[ed] immediate and urgent safety issues involving human sexuality.”
The legislation (purposefully) never defined what any of this meant but it marked a worrying evolution in Don’t Say Gay’s history of attacks by labeling LGBT kids as “risks.”
A Religious Right to Discriminate in Counseling?
A second legislative attack on gay people in the form of a bill (HB 1185) that would give religious trainee counselors the unfettered right to refuse LGBT clients based on their convictions, has also failed to move in the legislature.
The bill, one of many sweeping the country that aims to shoehorn special privilege for those with a faith, is a direct reaction to a number of lawsuits that have sprung up where religious trainee counselors have been dismissed or penalized by universities for failing to live up to the counseling code of ethics.
The counselling exemptions bill, which already passed the state Senate, may yet be acted on, but it does seem the House has chosen not to give it priority and has instead deferred the legislation for further study in the summer.
Penalizing Universities For Protecting Civil Rights
A separate piece of legislation, (HB 1046), designed to define away state funding for any university with encompassing (LGBT inclusive) nondiscrimination policies that do not give special exemptions to religious university groups, has now been withdrawn.
The bill, facing wide protestation from universities, drew the legal eye of the state’s Attorney General, who issued an opinion questioning the law’s constitutionality. Despite this, the bill’s supporters in the state legislature have indicated they may attempt to introduce a slightly modified version.
And this last point is telling. In all three instances, lawmakers have said they will reintroduce and continue to fight for their legislation.
This year’s battle seems to have stalled early then, but the war on LGBT rights in Tennessee certainly isn’t over yet.
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