Here’s the thing: The Legislative process can be confusing. And a lot of the time, this is on purpose. The confusion is intentional. Take for example SB 1085… “SB” stands for “Senate Bill” (as opposed to HB 1111, which is a “companion bill” where the “HB” stands for “House Bill”). The people here in Tennessee who know about it have called it the “LGBTQ Erasure Bill.” Here is what the text of SB 1085 says:
Statutes and Codification – As introduced, requires that undefined words be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest. – Amends TCA Title 1, Chapter 3.
Now, you might be thinking, “Where does it say anything about gay folks?” And you’re right–It doesn’t say anything specifically about people who are LGBTQ. Sounds simple enough. “Words mean their ‘natural and ordinary’ meaning.” Seems fair… But make no mistake, this bill is specifically designed to take away the civil and equal and human rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It is one of SEVENTEEN anti-LGBTQ bills in Tennessee that have been introduced this session, and it is very closely-worded to a failed bill which specifically stated that “mother,” “father,” “husband,” and “wife” would all be given their “biological” meaning. You can watch David Fowler of the “Family Action Council TN” (a big backer of this bill) speak directly about how SB 1085 is a broader replacement for the failed discriminatory bill in this video.
Now this bill–probably largely because of how obtusely “harmless” the verbiage sounds–has passed, and likely the only thing that will keep it from becoming a law will be a veto from Governor Bill Haslam. Here is how this is designed to hurt Tennesseeans who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, or Asexual:
This bill would insist that federal agencies and courts would apply a “plain” meaning to language that mentions gender. So if there was a law of a policy which used the word “husband” or “wife,” this bill/law would prevent the understanding to be “spouse.” And what THAT would do is it would effectively exclude same-sex couples from many protections. They are basically trying to put as many things in place as possible to weaken the Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality decision. It can become law either with or without Gov. Haslam’s signature… The only thing that can keep it from becoming law is his veto.
So if this becomes a law, it could do a lot of damage. It could keep a woman from putting her wife’s name on the birth certificate, it could prohibit confidential communications in court between same-sex couple, or it could even keep same-sex couples from using surrogates to have children. NOT ONLY THIS, but it could also have effects on straight folks as well (just in case you’re one of the folks who only cares about injustices done to YOU, and not about injustices done to people who make you feel a little bit “icky” on the inside). There are laws in Tennessee which speak of a “man’s” right, and if this horrible bill is signed into law, those can be interpreted NOT to apply to a “woman’s” rights.
And if that wasn’t enough, this law is going to cost Tennessee taxpayers A LOT of money. It is clearly unconstitutional, and Tennessee will spend all kinds of money defending it against legal challenges. Tennessee currently has a policy that “gender-specific words are to be construed as gender-inclusive.” The courts have sided with that opinion. This would be EXPENSIVE… Not only to defend legally, but when the rest of the country becomes aware of what actually happened with this law, and they understand the sinister, evil intent of its language, it will be expensive in other ways as well. We have seen the kind of negative economic impact that North Carolina’s disastrous and discriminatory “Bathroom Bill” has caused that state… When people find out how intentionally hateful this bill is, we can expect the same sort of blowback.
Tennessee’s Legislature has spent an inordinate amount of time this year trying to hurt LGBTQ people in this state. There are an overwhelming amount of republican lawmakers in this state, and they all seem to have a boner for taking away gay people’s civil rights. If what you’re trying to do is send a message that says, “Y’all aren’t welcome here,” believe me… The queer folks in this state have gotten that message. For the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out why they stick around. What is so great about this place that would make them endure this continued harassment? Because I don’t see it. But for whatever reason, they do. They love this place, and they call it their home. And they just want to love who they love, and receive the same fair and equal treatment that other couples enjoy in The Volunteer State. Like me, maybe they know this place to be friendly and kind–despite what our legislature keeps doing. But that hospitable reputation will be HURT by this hateful bill being signed into law.
So I… You… WE can put pressure on Governor Haslam to do the right thing. You can call his office at (615) 741-2001 and voice your opposition to this hateful and discriminatory bill. You can learn more about why keeping this bill from becoming law is so important by CHECKING OUT THIS PAGE. You can add your name to THIS PETITION. And, maybe most importantly, you can speak to your gay friends, and remind them that you are on their side. Let them know you love them. Let them know they are welcome, and that you are glad they are a part of your life. Let them know that–regardless of whether or not Governor Haslam ends his tenure with a discriminatory act of political cowardice or an inclusive act of political bravery–you will continue to fight along side of them until–someday–they stop having to worry about this shit anymore.
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