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.
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.
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.
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.
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.