General Assembly continues assault on LGBT rights
In the months that have passed since marriage equality came to Tennessee, conservative lawmakers have waged a ceaseless campaign to restrict the rights of LGBT people wherever possible.
They've also worked diligently to shield anti-LGBT discrimination from punishments.
Since the fall, not a week has passed where a local or state body hasn't tried to pass such a measure — a marathon that has fatigued advocates and strained resources across the state.
Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), says this level of activity is unprecedented. In fact, this year TEP has already had to convene a second set of “Day on the Hill” activities, which it has never done before, to combat HB2414. The anti-transgender bathroom bill seeks to restrict transgender access to restrooms which do not match the person’s gender identity. In an unexpected victory, there was bipartisan support in the House education committee for setting the bill aside for summer study.
But under pressure from right wing activists at the Family Action Council of Tennessee, lawmakers have managed to get the bill moved back onto the committee’s schedule. Meanwhile, HB1840, the Counseling Discrimination bill which allows mental health professionals to discriminate against clients based on religious or moral objections, is proceeding to discussion on the House floor.
“The priorities for next week are HB2414, which is the anti-transgender student bathroom bill, and HB1840, which is the counseling discrimination bill,” Sanders explained. “Both are now up for important votes on Wednesday. The counseling discrimination bill will be heard during the 9:00 a.m. floor session, and the anti-transgender student bathroom bill is being discussed in the House Education Administration and Planning Committee at 3:00.”
The committee vote on the anti-trans student bathroom bill is the only step standing between the bill and a House floor debate and vote, where it is likely to pass. And if the counseling discrimination bill passes the House, it will go to the governor’s desk, as the Senate has already approved its version of the bill.
“These are do-or-die moments for both bills and we are drawing support from every corner of Tennessee,” Sanders said. “Every available hour is being spent on these two bills. Advocates are working hard from Tri-Cities to Clarksville to Memphis trying to stop the hate steamroller we're facing right now.”
On Monday, TEP is joining together with the American Counseling Association for another round of “Day on the Hill”-style lobbying — this time against the counseling discrimination bill. Also on Monday, TEP is organizing “pizza party activism” to bring volunteers together to make calls and send emails to bolster support for the LGBT community. Events in Clarksville and Tri-Cities have Facebook event pages.
TEP is also engaging in a special fundraiser, “Moving the Message,” to “invest in new communication tools to bring more allies into the fight” given the unprecedented level of activity this year.
graphic via the Tennessean