Progress in the South: Tennessee Is First Southern State To Include Trans People in Hate Crime Protections

The South may be notoriously slow at adopting LGBTQ rights, but that doesn’t mean change isn’t coming. For example, Tennessee has just become the first Southern state to extend hate crime protections to its transgender residents.

In this instance, progress didn’t come through legislation or even a court decision, for that matter. Last year, the state Senate considered adding gender identity to the list of factors considered in sentencing, but it didn’t pass – a not all that surprising outcome considering the body is overwhelmingly conservative.

Instead, this new change comes via State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, who read and interpreted the existing rules in a straightforward manner. Because Tennessee already has protections on the basis of gender, Slatery has declared that judges can already use the current rules for transgender victims without any further revisions being necessary.

“A defendant who targets a person for a crime because that person is transgender has targeted the person because of his or her gender within the meaning,” clarified Slatery.

Credit also goes to state Rep. Mike Stewart, a Democrat, who directed this inquiry at the attorney general. After last year’s bill failed, he wondered if Tennessee might already protect transgender residents, and Slatery acknowledged that that appears to be the case.

Technically, Tennessee doesn’t have a hate crime “law” like most states, though it does permit judges to enhance sentences if offenders single out their victims due to their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender or religion.

Since so much of that is left up to the judge’s discretion, it’ll be a wait-and-see type of situation before we know whether transgender victims are given consideration during sentencing.

For that reason, Rep. Stewart would still like to see gender identity more explicitly codified into the existing rules. For now, though, incremental progress is a pretty nice victory in a part of the country that is reticent to acknowledging LGBTQ rights.

After all, it’d still be a far stretch to say that Tennessee is a beacon of trans rights. At this moment, the Tennessee legislature is also considering a bill about “indecent exposure” in bathrooms/locker rooms. Trans activists believe that, because of a section about gender dysphoria, the whole point of the bill is to outlaw transgender people from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Sadly, there seems to be no end to this (needlessly) politicized issue. Tennessee in particular has repeatedly tried to pass transphobic bathroom laws. Three years ago, Tennessee also made it legal for therapists and counselors to refuse to take on LGBT clients.

So yeah, there’s still a lot of work to be done. For now, though, people in Tennessee who would consider committing a crime and/or doing harm to a trans person because of who they are should be aware that there’s a good chance they’ll be held to account for their hate.

39 comments

Richard B
Richard B1 days ago

Thank you

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Maria P
Maria P2 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson10 days ago

Thank you.

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Coo R
Coo R12 days ago

sorry accidentally hit "post" before finishing comment. sick in the head and to my stomach that so many people who just want to get on with their lives are targeted and feel threatened for just existing. glad they are getting protections, angry that they are needed.

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Coo R
Coo R12 days ago

sick in the head

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H14 days ago

thanks

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Anna R
Anna R16 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Kayla Cote
Kayla Cote22 days ago

Such great news, thanks so much for sharing! :)

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Lorrie O
Lorrie O27 days ago

"Hate" is not a word (of the TruthGood). The 3 jewels, the 3 engagement rings, and the 3 scales of Justice: the weigh of enlightenment. The 1st jewel, the Love feel: the neither forced conception sex business, nor rape sex business, neither adoption sex business, nor abortion sex business, Supreme Truth Supreme Good Love feel. The 2nd jewel, the Dharma, the Supreme Truth Supreme Good: Labor do, Life do, Peace do. The 3rd jewel, the Sangha, the Supreme Truth Supreme Good: Meditate know, Wealth know.

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Lorrie O
Lorrie O27 days ago

An Apollo-gy. Apollo, aoo. AtOMbOMb, aoo. Little...Boy. Enola...Gay. August 6 (not 9), 1945, ad. THESE are the words.

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