It’s been a brutal legislative session for LGBTQ people in Tennessee. The state’s legislators filed a verifiable flood of discriminatory bills – and many of them, unfortunately, were pushed through by anti-LGBTQ forces. In all, a total of five anti-LGBTQ laws in Tennessee will become law, making the state an even more hostile place for LGBTQ people to live. Among the bills passed include the first anti-transgender “bathroom bill” measures enacted since North Carolina’s abhorrent HB2 in 2016.
Breaking Down the Bills That Became Law:
Here’s a breakdown of the 5 bills that were passed in the state in 2021:
- SB126 – Restricts access to gender-affirming care by limiting health providers the ability to prescribe HRT to prepubertal minors. Violations of this bill result in a misdemeanor.
- HB3 and SB228 – These bills prohibit transgender students from participating in school sports – and Tennessee became one of the first states this year to force this policy through. The bill requires student athletes to be gendered by what they are assigned at birth, demonstrated by their original birth certificate. Minors starting from 5th-12th grade have to offer “evidence” of their birth sex and pay any costs associated with that process.
- SB1229 and HB529 – Parents must be given a 30-day notice prior to opt minors out of any Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curricula.
- HB1233 and SB1367 – This bill requires public schools to provide reasonable accommodation to those who are “unwilling or unable” to access multi-occupancy restrooms, changing rooms or sleeping quarters. In other words, it permits students to lawfully avoid sharing school facilities with transgender students.
- HB1182 and SB1224– Requires businesses that allow people to use restrooms according to their gender identity to post an offensive warning at the entrance of the building and bathrooms.
Bills That Did Not Pass
Although these proposed bills failed to pass, it is important that we understand the language that is being used to instill fear and division rather than equality and human dignity. The proposed bills:
- HB578 – Criminalized gender affirming care for minors
- HB372 – Prohibited the government from requiring employees to participate in trainings that violate their religious beliefs
- SB1208 – Prohibits from “creating, enforcing, or endorsing policies that respect or promote non-secular self-asserted sex-based identity narratives, sexual orientation orthodoxy, or non-secular marriage doctrine.”
- SB562 – Bill appears to be a caption bill that would eventually carry explicitly anti-marriage equality language around marriage licensing and definitions.
How to Support LGBTQ Tennesseeans
Our team at Campaign Southern Equality remains vigilant on the latest anti-LGBTQ legislation in Tennessee and is connecting with local groups and organizations to fight back against the discriminatory laws. The Tennessee Equality Project and the ACLU of Tennessee are some of the organizations on the forefront of tackling the latest discriminatory bills in the state.
These next few years will be critical in the ongoing legislative fight for a more inclusive South. It is important that our LGBTQ Tennesseans feel seen and heard, and we must center their experiences. The LGBTQ community and allies can show solidarity with our loved ones in TN by amplifying the work that is being done on the ground to fight against anti-equality in the state.