A Plot Against Marriage Equality in the TN Legislature
So far, this legislative session has seen far fewer radical anti-LGBT bills than in most recent years. The major anti-LGBT bill currently filed is the License to Discriminate bill, which failed last year.
But, as Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, pointed out, there's still time for new bills to be filed. He expects one of those bills to be an extreme attack on marriage equality.
"I think we will have some kind of marriage bill, believe it or not," he said when we sat down yesterday, February 5, 2019, during the first TEP Day on the Hill of this legislative session. "One of our district captains gathered some intel in the cafeteria of all places, indicating that one is coming. And we've got a few more days for legislators to file a bill. So I would not be surprised to find some sort of marriage discrimination bill back this year..."
What was that intel, you may ask? Sanders revealed a little more information in a Facebook post on the Tennessee Equality Project group, where he wrote: "Will Fuson uncovered a plot to run an anti-marriage equality bill and we'll have more information on that soon. But he accomplished that by keeping his eyes open and knowing what to look for."
How exactly was this plot uncovered? Simple carelessness on the part of the opposition. So busy were they packing their trays that they couldn't be bothered to pick up their papers from the counter. No doubt, some of the bold wording must have caught the watchful eye of the TEP volunteer.
Talking Points for the Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act
The document recovered was a series of so-called "talking points" for defending the coming legislation against criticisms. Any informed reader can see that most of these talking points barely constituted a cohesive thought, much less a rational argument against marriage equality. But take a look for yourselves (click to enlarge):
Some highlights of the anticipated Act
Highlights of the talking points include:
(2) The LGBTQ church is not about “tolerance,” is about “dominance.”
(5) The government’s endorsement of LGBTQ ideology is the greatest non-secular sham since the inception of American jurisprudence.
(6) If anyone is a bigot, it is the person who advocates for the government’s entanglement with the LGBTQ church. ‘Skin tone’ is ‘genetic;’ ‘Sexual orientation’ is ‘faith-based.’
(9) That is, pro-gay policies fail the 3 prongs of the Lemon Test and therefore violate the Establishment Clause. This means no more legally recognized gay marriage, no more conversion therapy bans, no more government paid for sex change operations, no more government mandated pronoun changes, no more Drag Queen Story Time for Children at the Public Library.
(15) The Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act is the bill that will override Obergefell…
Any bill requiring talking points such as these would constitute a major legislative assault on marriage equality in Tennessee. It would, as number 9 points out, lay the framework for an all out assault on not only marriage equality, but also children and teens, trans healthcare and civil rights, and social activities amongst LGBT people and allies in the community.
Should the legislature decide to go forward with such an unconstitutional law, real damage will be done, no matter the outcome. If the bill is forwarded, it will hurt Tennessee's chances to attract the best employers. Should it pass, it could stand as law in Tennessee until the courts intervene, which could be quickly or could take years.
In the meantime, LGBT people could be left in legal limbo. The time to fight this battle isn't in the courts next year: it's in the halls of Cordell Hull this winter and spring!
TEP will be hosting two more Days on the Hill - one on March 5. and the other on April 2 - so pitch in and help if you can. Follow TEP's Facebook page to keep track of other opportunities to help!
For more coverage of TEP, see TEP to Focus on ‘Pre-emption Laws’ and Non-Discrimination & TEP citizen-advocate recalls her first meeting with legislators.