These Bills Aren’t Passing, but Tennessee Continues to Hate LGBTs Anyway

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.


Related Reading:

Tennessee ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Now Requires Teachers To Inform Parents if Child is Gay

TN Governor Intervenes Over Don’t Say Gay Bill

Utah Passes ‘Don’t Say Gay or Contraception’ Sex-Ed Bill


Image credit: Thinkstock.


Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton3 years ago

I have been all over the world & Hatred is Everywhere!!

Neal Gay
Neal Gay3 years ago

I lived in Nashville once and all this Gay Hatred was not there. The gay community in TN is Huge. So what happened to a once great state?

pam w.
pam w.3 years ago

Gene...I owe you ANOTHER green star for this...because you've said the obvious....this is about hateful religion!

Of course, it's not just about gays in's also about kids of color in Georgia, who cannot attend the "whites only" prom. It's about the effort to install a State religion in North Carolina (where they still have laws on the books stating nobody can hold office unless they believe in god.)

If anyone questions why so many of us have turned away from Christianity.....THIS IS THE ANSWER!

And, before you tell me "NOT ALL OF US ARE LIKE THIS"......tell me what you personally have done to protest these actions. Tell me how you personally criticize these bigots. Tell me how you personally have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with gay kids or spoken to legislators about such ''legal'' hatred.

Gene Jacobson
Gene Jacobson3 years ago

(continued)When we act in this way we encourage repression in other areas of the world too and that is the last thing a free nation ought do. Or it should be.

Gene Jacobson
Gene Jacobson3 years ago

"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."

I don't care how they modify it, it will still be unconstitutional and again another huge waste of taxpayer time and money producing legislation, legislator's know will not withstand judicial scrutiny. It never stops amazing me how people who claim to religious, claim to have read the bible, claim to love as it instructs are so intent on denying that right to so many others. It is never enough to DO as you choose, it is this insane need to make all others bow to your interpretation of religion. It is one thing to proselytize to garner new members, quite another to attempt to shove your ideas down the throats of all others. Sort of the opposite of freedom isn't it? And aren't we above all else, the land of the free? I think so, so do the many clamoring to live here, and I think we set a sorry and bigoted example for the rest of the world which watches our movies, television, media each time some fool decides it is his turn for 15 minutes of bigotry. Now there's a constitutional amendment I'd support. Prohibit bigotry of any kind, for any reason. We're better than this, legislator's of the country, religious leaders of the country, or we should be. W

David King
David King3 years ago

part two:

Further strikes came from Justice Kagan’s asking about marriage between different-sex couples who are both over 55 and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s reference to an earlier Supreme Court case that held that even those locked up in prison with no possibility of procreation have the right to marry.

Although the Perry case might not give us a definitive word about whether same-sex couples may marry in every state, the justices clearly are engaged and thinking hard about the issues. Not just accepting the status quo is one of the changes I am proud Lawrence has wrought. We now wait until June to know more but, after today’s arguments, I will rest easier tonight.

David King
David King3 years ago

What I heard today made me optimistic that we soon will see further progress. The questioning strongly suggested that the justices either will rule that the proponents of Prop 8 did not have the right to appeal the trial court’s ruling that the initiative is unconstitutional—which should again permit same-sex couples to marry in California—or will outright find Proposition 8 unconstitutional. While it is always hard to know for sure, there did not seem to be five votes to uphold the measure.

I smiled broadly when the lawyer arguing in support of Prop 8 conceded that the government almost never has even a rational basis for discriminating based on sexual orientation—a reason for granting heightened judicial scrutiny to laws that do.

I was heartened by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s statement that the voice of the nearly 40,000 children living in California with parents who are same-sex couples who “want their parents to have full recognition and full status” is “important in this case” and his reference to the “immediate legal injury” they are suffering.

When the lawyer defending Prop 8 tried to argue that only different-sex couples could procreate together, I was encouraged by Justice Elena Kagan’s insight that that might be grounds for letting them marry but it did not explain why same-sex couples should be excluded from the institution.

David King
David King3 years ago

part three:

In one of the most positive exchanges during the argument, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted the harms imposed by DOMA. She discussed how federal marriage benefits are pervasive and “touch every aspect of life.” She also pointed out that DOMA diminishes what numerous states have said is a marriage, treating some of those marriages as “sort of skim-milk marriage.” She also noted that, even before the Court recognized that laws that discriminate based on sex deserve heightened scrutiny, it struck down such a law under the more lenient “rational basis” test because it saw the law as “rank discrimination.”

It was incredibly gratifying to see the Solicitor General—our government’s lead Supreme Court lawyer—pointedly conclude that Section 3 of DOMA “is discrimination” and then voice that “it’s time for the Court to recognize that excluding lawfully married gay and lesbian couples from federal benefits cannot be reconciled with our fundamental commitment to equal treatment under law.”

I believe that time is at hand.

David King
David King3 years ago

part two:

But one positive sign is that the three justices who suggested that perhaps the Court should not reach the question of whether Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional were among its most conservative members (Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice Roberts), which might suggest that they are concerned about what a majority of the Court will do if that question is decided.

When the argument switched to DOMA’s validity, there were numerous other encouraging signs. As during yesterday’s argument, Justice Anthony Kennedy again expressed concern about the rights of children of same-sex couples. When the other side argued that the goal of DOMA was to protect states and allow them to experiment, Justice Kennedy said he was troubled by the fact that DOMA only “helps” the states that do not want to respect marriages entered by lesbians and gay men.

Justice Elena Kagan explained that DOMA raises “red flag[s]” by only seeking a uniform federal rule about who is married with regard to “a group that is not everybody’s favorite group in the world.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned what right the federal government had to create categories of marriage. And Justice Stephen Breyer was worried that, if having a uniform federal definition is enough reason to exclude some married people from receiving federal benefits, then nothing would stop Congress from choosing arbitrary criteria (like the age of the spouses,

David King
David King3 years ago

Today was another good day at the Supreme Court.

While it is always hard to know for sure based on the questions posed, it seemed that a majority of the Court is ready to hold Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional and end its requirement that the federal government treat all legally married same-sex couples as if they were single.

Nearly half of the argument time today was devoted to questions about whether the United States v. Windsor challenge to DOMA had properly been brought before the Court. Justices posed heady procedural questions about whether a committee of one house of Congress—or even one house itself—has a right to appeal if a law it voted for is struck down. Members of the Court also questioned whether the Department of Justice should be able to file an appeal of a ruling when it was on the winning side of the lower court ruling.

If you had only heard this part of the argument, you might not even realize this was a gay rights case