Tennessee Lawmakers Are Willing To Take Food From Poor Kids In Order To Keep LGBT People From Having Equal Rights

I know, I know… That title is too long. Listen–I live in Tennessee. And as much as I have grown to love my new home, there are some times that I feel like legislators in this state are competing with a few other southern states for the title of “Most Backwards-Thinking Embarrassment To The Union.” Like the time they tried to vote the Bible as the Official State Book. Or the time they tried to pass the “Don’t Say Gay” bill making it illegal for school personnel to discuss homosexuality in any way. Or the time that they tried to make it legal for kids in schools to bully, as long they were bullying kids for being gay (as an expression of their “faith”). Well, they are at it again… Lawmakers in the Volunteer State are attempting to pass a bill called the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act. And, as you might have assumed from the name, this is basically a big Rocky Top Middle Finger to the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.


“Be on the right side of history.” Seriously.

The summary  of the bill reads that “It requires the state of Tennessee to defend natural marriage as between one man and one woman as recognized by the people of Tennessee, regardless of any court decision to the contrary.” It also basically forces the Attorney General to defend all the government officials (Kim Davis types) who could (and definitely would) get sued as a result of this action, and it forbids local agencies and officials from arresting people who refuse to follow federal law regarding marriage equality. You can read the summary HERE, but along with the summary of what the bill would practically change, there is always a Financial Summary as well… And this is where things get interesting.

If this bill passes, Tennessee could stand to lose over $8.5 billion in funding. But don’t worry… That money won’t come from something important, like our roads. It will be taken from programs designed to help poor kids–Over $6.5 billion from TennCare, and over $2 billion from SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Yes. You read that correctly. Tennessee legislators are so interested in enforcing their own interpretation of Biblical morality on the people of this state, that they are willing to lose over $8,510,520,500 in federal funding–funding that is designated for kids who don’t have enough food. Or need help keeping the heat on. Or need medicines that help them to be able to breathe.


Or anyone’s rights, really.

It’s like it’s not enough to let the LGBT community know we think they’re going to hell, and let them know they’re not welcome in our churches (not our Church), and make sure we can still fire them for being gay… We–as a state–must CODIFY THEIR DISCRIMINATION, all at the cost of $6.5 billion in healthcare for poor kids, and over $2 billion supplemental nutrition and temporary assistance for needy families. I honestly cannot wrap my head around this legislation. It’s just so shameful… Here we are, in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and people are (still) using their faith as a justification for discrimination. All at the expense of kids living in poverty who are sick and hungry. But these are the representatives the people of Tennessee have elected… The sort of people who would take food from kids living in poverty if it meant making sure the gays don’t have the same rights as the rest of us. <–This, by the way, is why it is SO IMPORTANT to educate yourself AND VOTE in local elections. These sorts of people can get elected with barely any votes… And their time spent in office has real world consequences.


Beavers & Pody sounds like a mildly cool name for a 70’s folk duo, but what they are doing is far from cool. Please give these confused lawmakers a call and tell them what you think.

So if you’re like me, you’re probably hearing about this and wondering, “What can I do to help?” Well, there are a few things. You can call your local representative and let her or him know that you find this legislation repulsive in every way, and contrary to everything worthwhile that makes us human. You can call Mark Pody (615-741-7086) and Mae Beavers (615-741-2421) and tell them that this legislation is the exact OPPOSITE of following Jesus and loving our enemies, and it grosses you right out. And one other thing you could do is you could SHOW UP. The Tennessee Equality Project is having people show up at the Legislative Plaza WEARING RED to show your support for Marriage Equality. It’s from 3-5 on Wednesday, January 20. I don’t do this kind of stuff enough… We rarely ever show up. We rarely ever march. We rarely ever take any sort of direct action. We rarely ever come out from behind our computers and stand side-by-side with people to stand for something we believe in. Here’s a chance: HERE’S A LINK to the Facebook event page.


We don’t call people idiots for standing up and saying, “God Hates You.” We simply proclaim, with our lives and our words and our actions, that GOD LOVES YOU.

People in this state–religious leaders, ordinary citizens, and lawmakers alike–are standing up on a daily basis, and basically saying to the LGBT community: “You’re not welcome here.” This proposed bill is a disgusting piece of legislation–One that somehow manages to give these backward-thinking legislators a “two birds, one stone” of hurting the gays and the poor at the same time. Maybe consider living up to this state’s nickname in a different way, and “volunteer” a couple hours of your time, wear something red, and stand together with people in solidarity against this garbage. The people writing these bills (that continue to make our state a national punchline) might not get the message, but maybe our LGBT brothers and sisters might get the message that there are many of us here in Tennessee who want them to know: You ARE welcome here. We are with you in this fight for equal rights.

Please share this. And let people know about the event at Legislative Plaza. Let us honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. by doing something WHEREVER we see injustice.


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9 Responses to Tennessee Lawmakers Are Willing To Take Food From Poor Kids In Order To Keep LGBT People From Having Equal Rights

  1. Rebekah says:

    I believe ALL US Citizens should be treated equally, with equal ability to partake in our constitutional, human rights. No race, creed, sexual orientation or religion should garner you penalties nor earn you special privileges. I believe that no religion should hold power over the state. I believe that no one should be able to force another person to practice their religious beliefs, (such as abstaining from a same sex relationship and/or marriage) especially through the use of governing laws. This anti-marriage equality resolution does impose the will and religious beliefs of some onto others who do not hold the same religious beliefs. If the religious of this country do not believe in same sex marriage then they should not engage in said activity, but they should not stand in the way of another US Citizen employing their right to do so.

  2. Kelly Mayer says:

    Why would the passage of this bill result in the loss of 8 billion dollars? Your reporting was super heavy on dogma and equally light on facts; what does 8 billion dollars have to do with it and WHY would it be lost?

    • Susan M says:

      Stacey Barchenger, sbarchenger@tennessean.com 11:37 p.m. CST January 14, 2016
      (Photo: File / The Tennessean.com)
      A bill that would direct Tennessee officials to essentially ignore the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage could cost the state more than $8.5 billion, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

      That figure includes the federal funding the state receives for programs such as TennCare that could get yanked if the state goes against the federal court’s order.

      TennCare receives about $6.5 billion in federal funding, and the Department of Human Services receives more than $2 billion for its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families aid programs, according to the fiscal note.

      “The provisions of the bill could jeopardize federal funding if it is determined the state is noncompliant with federal law,” the fiscal note reads.

      The bill is the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act. It is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

      Sponsored by Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, the bill calls on the attorney general to defend any state or local official in any lawsuit that could — and would — arise if the bill is enacted. It also says no state or local agency may enforce the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, or any other decision that might allow same-sex marriage. Officials abiding by the bill, if enacted, couldn’t be fined or arrested for ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill states.

      Lawmakers file ‘Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act’

      Pody said he would work with the Fiscal Review Committee to determine how the estimate was reached and how to decrease the cost.

      “I am a fiscal conservative, so I’m one that would want that to be addressed properly,” he said. Pody said he would continue to pursue the legislation.

      The Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for LGBT people, sent out an alert about the “pretty hefty” cost of the bill late Wednesday.

      “The estimated expense to the state shows how reckless it is to pursue discrimination,” said Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project. “When we canvassed voters in conservative districts this fall, they agreed that it was not even worth it for the legal costs of a couple of million dollars. Now, some legislators are endangering billions of dollars in federal funding, not to mention threatening the health insurance, hospital visitation and parenting arrangements of same-sex couples.”

      Read the full fiscal note, which includes analysis of the costs, here.

      Reach Stacey Barchenger at 615-726-8968 or on Twitter @sbarchenger.

    • theboeskool says:

      Hi Kelly. First off, it is over $8.5 billion. Let’s not sweep that $500,000,000 under the rug…

      Secondly–As you’re reading, there are certain words that are different colors (Hypertext) that link to things I’m writing about. In the spot where I said, “You can read the summary HERE,” if you click on the word “HERE” it will take you to the page on HB1412. On that page, there is a tab that says “Summary.” Here is the verbiage from the page I linked to: “The provisions of the bill could jeopardize federal funding if it is determined the state is noncompliant with federal law. The Bureau of TennCare reports that if someone is denied coverage that would otherwise be eligible by virtue of being in a same-sex marriage, and such action is considered noncompliant with federal law, then the Bureaus federal funding, approximately $6,510,520,500 in FY15-16, could be in jeopardy. The Department of Human Services reports that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds the department receives could also be in jeopardy. These funds total over $2 billion.”

      Basically, the federal government helps states out with certain things, and if they decide they’re not going to comply with federal law, the government pulls that help. Much in the same way that a school can decide they are not going to allow black families to be part of their community, but if they do that, the school will lose its tax exempt status… Does that make sense?

      • Kelly Mayer says:

        That does make sense, thank you. Well, I mean, no, it doesn’t make sense that 5 unelected interpreters of the law can CREATE a law that ultimately requires people (and entire states) to go against their consciences or pay billions of dollars in consequences, but yes, you answered my question thoroughly. Thanks for that.

      • theboeskool says:

        So yeah… I wrote about this before, but what you’re talking about only doesn’t make sense if you don’t believe that the constitution makes sense. People always seem to point out that Supreme Court Justices are “unelected” when they decide on a different interpretation than the one the person doing the talking would have liked. The US Constitution sets up the process whereby members of the SCOTUS are appointed and not elected. Think about how corrupted the process of Election has become… Where vast amounts of money buy elections. Yes, they are appointed, but the members of congress “elect” them by voting yea or nay.

        And no, they did not “CREATE” a law–despite what you have heard in your conservative circles. They “INTERPRETED” a law… Specifically, they interpreted the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment as applying to people who are LGBT. The same way Justices interpreted existing laws to apply to black votes. The same way Justices interpreted existing laws to apply to women like yourself.

    • Allison says:

      I believe the money our state is willing to give up is to pay for court costs when they get sued for going against the federal law. They are asking for help and are willing to give up tn care and snap $ for the public, the ppl they were elected and hired to protect, if it means theywill be protected.

      • John says:

        Shouldn’t the fight over this money the Federal Government intends to pull be brought to Washington. To be able to walk accross the isle and stand with those that oppose LGBT political groups based on The Holy Bible and other reasons and come up with an argument to help poor people regardless of the outcome of whether states agree with gay marriage or not is a less selfish stance. It is a stance that would gain support I believe from even the far right. After all it should not be politically correct for a Bible believing Christian to have to support an agenda that is against their moral value because of basically blackmail. It sounds like there is legislation which should be illegal that says if you don’t turn against your God and support our agenda we will hurt poor people in your state by cutting federal funding. In other words if people don’t support your views allow them to vote their conscience rather than what they view as the best of two evils. The fight LGBT people have after all will continue unless the Bible is taken out of print and churches close their doors. That of course would be anarchy. Again the selfless person who fights for not themselves and their motives but instead for those they love in what ever family they have managed to build will most likely be the winner. Dirty political blows saying do this or lose that are hateful in nature and should be apposed.

  3. Pingback: Voting Down the Defense of Natural Marriage Act: My View From the Hallway | The Boeskool

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