Votes delayed on gay adoption, civil unions

Committee votes have been delayed on bills related to gay adoptions and civil unions in Tennessee as members of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) met with legislators about their concerns over the bills.

“The presence of more than 50 TEP activists caught many lawmakers by surprise. The numbers and the stories of our friends on the hill, gave many lawmakers second thoughts about their positions,” said Christopher Sanders, spokesman for TEP.

TEP has hired lobbyist Jennifer Ford to represent them to legislators. Ford is joined in her lobbying efforts by Jennifer Nash, president and co-founder of the Greater Nashville Lambda Democrats, as the  lobbyist of record for GNLD.

Advancing Equality Day on the Hill was co-sponsored by TEP and HRC TN Steering Committee. To learn more about TEP, contact TEP at

Rep. Chris Clem, R-Lookout Mountain, is one of the sponsors of the adoption bills, along with Sen. Jim Bryson, R-Franklin, and Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin. Clem's bill is House bill 775 and the Senate version is Senate bill 1615. Black's bill is Senate bill 829 and the House version, sponsored by Rep. Duane Bunch, R-Cleveland, is House bill 543.

Clem postponed scheduled hearings Tuesday by the Domestic Relations House subcommittee on his bill, along with a measure to prohibit same-sex civil unions in Tennessee. Votes on the Senate companion to Clem's bill, were postponed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Domestic Relations subcommittee is the same panel that killed a similar civil-unions bill sponsored by Clem last year in a 5-4 vote.

A bill filed to add a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Tennessee has sailed through committee hearings with little or no resistance. Tennessee law already defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but lawmakers are trying to prevent courts from allowing gay marriages in other states from being recognized here.

The legislature approved the ban last session by a simple majority, and now needs a two-thirds majority this session before the question can be put to voters on a gubernatorial ballot. The Tennessee House Committee on Children and Family Affairs voted to move the marriage amendment by a vote of 13 to 4 with 2 “passes”.

Representatives Kathryn Bowers, Joanne Favors, Beverly Marrero, and Barbara Cooper voted against the measure. Representative Sherry Jones, widely seen as a supporter of the GLBT community, surprised many when she passed on the vote. The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee similarly voted 7 to 2 to pass the marriage amendment. Voting against the amendment were senators Steve Cohen and Joe Haynes.

Legislation that has been filed this year that affects the GLBT community includes:

HB 334 / SB 215 - against civil unions and domestic partnerships

HB 543 / SB 829 - prohibits homosexuals from adopting

HB 751 / SB 914 - against civil unions and domestic partnerships

HB 775 - Prohibits adoptions by homosexual persons, and prohibits a parent from surrendering or consenting to the adoption of such person's child if such person has knowledge that a prospective adoptive parent is a homosexual.
HJR 81 - marriage amendment

HJR 10 - marriage amendment

HJR 24 - marriage amendment
SB 37 - allows transgender individuals to change gender on birth certificate

SB 1911 - prohibits discrimination by higher education institutions re:
admissions criteria, rules or procedures

SB 1924 - prohibits a homosexual person from being foster a parent and also applies to anyone if a homosexual person resides in the same residence

SB 1930 - prohibits adoptions by homosexual persons

SJR 31 - marriage amendment

SJR 45 - marriage amendment

SB 1615 -Prohibits adoptions by homosexual persons, and prohibits a parent from surrendering or consenting to the adoption of such person's child if such person has knowledge that a prospective adoptive parent is a homosexual.

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