Tennessee legislative session ends with no discriminatory bills

With the 105th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned for the year, Tennessee's GLBT community is breathing a collective sigh of relief, with no discriminatory bills being passed this year, despite several on the table that would have directly affected the community.

"What a grueling eight months," said Tennessee Equality Proejct President Christopher Sanders. "The state's GLBT community is perhaps not the most relieved of all constituencies, but we're certainly not the least. "

Sanders said work began for TEP in October 2007 (the legislative session started in January 2008) when Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper gave the opinion that there is no legal barrier to same-sex couples adopting. With that rueling, some legislators immediately gave notice that they would attempt to ban same-sex adoption in 2008.

"What we got was SB3910/HB3713 , which sought to ban all unmarried cohabiting couples (straight and gay) from adopting," Sanders said. "Thankfully, the fiscal note of more than $4.5 Million in impact to the state appeared. In a tight budget year, a revelation like that began the bill's death march. But we think opposition to the substance of the bill also mattered. Our Web master just told me today that members of the Tennessee Equality Project sent almost 13,000 emails through our system to legislators this session. We know that one of our allies generated at least 2,000 emails on the adoption bill alone. So the level of citizen contact with lawmakers on GLBT issues spiked this year."

And then there was the bill proposed by East Tennessee legislator Stacy Campfield. It attempted to prohibit discussion of any sexuality other than heterosexuality in grades K-8 of our public schools. 

That bill ended up into the oblivion of study by the Department of Education from which it hasn't reemerged.

"No anti-GLBT bill has been adopted by the General Assembly since 2005 when the marriage amendment passed both houses for a second time to head to the ballot where the voters approved it in 2006," Sanders said. "There have been various attempts to pass bans on adoption, foster care, civil unions, and so on. Nothing has gone very far. At the same time, the few pieces of positive legislation that we have worked on have fizzled as well. It's a bit of stalemate."

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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