We survived #TNHateWeek
The Tennessee Equality Project alerted us early this week that it would be a difficult one, dubbing it #TNHateWeek, and rightfully so. In the end, there was some good news, and plenty of bad, too.
On Tuesday the House Health Subcommittee took on the counseling discrimination bill. The committee ultimately recommended passage of it – a bad thing, yes – but with an important caveat. It substituted the words “religious beliefs” with “principles.”
A previous incarnation of the bill read in part:
No counselor or therapist providing counseling or therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist; provided, that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy.
That original version of the bill met with negative and loud reaction from TEP when it was discussed in the Senate a couple weeks back. Though the Senate sponsor claimed it was “not anti-anybody,” TEP provided this evidence that is, in fact, targeting LGBT people in Tennessee.
The good news is that a revised House version slows it in the legislature because both the House and Senate versions must be the same. The bad news is, of course, that ANY version of these bills will remain in spirit a target to the LGBT people.
Also on Tuesday, the anti-transgender bathroom bill was pushed back, but only because the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee ran out of time. Too, there is good news (it grants TEP and its supporters more time to speak with legislators) and there is bad news (according to TEP, the bill “probably would’ve passed this week” so will more time help?).
The bill we be discussed again this coming Tuesday which is coincidentally also Advancing Equality Day on the Hill. The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition invites everyone to join them. From a Facebook post: "Your voices are being heard on Capitol Hill, but your physical presence in their offices, and in the committee room, will make an even bigger difference."
On Wednesday the Senate Education Committee discussed defunding UT-K diversity initiatives. It approved an amendment that would effectively end all state support for the diversity office. Oddly, it redirected $5 million in funding to support its agricultural extension service and rural outreach programs, a move that TEP notes may ironically support LGBT people via the US Dept of Agriculture work on diversity issues of late.
The good news: according to TEP, the amended budget will go to Senate Finance “where any number of things could happen. Whatever results would have to go through House and Senate. So it’s not clear what will stick.”
On Thursday the House approved a non-binding resolution that acknowledges its “strong disagreement with the constitutional approach” in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision that granted marriage equality nationwide last year. The Republican supermajority pushed it through, cutting off debate (though the Nashville Scene took progressives to task for not defending gay rights and marriage equality in the time they took).
In a last ditch effort to point out the error of its ways, Rep. Sherry Jones proposed to the House an amendment that would compel the state to cover all legal costs to local governments arising from any lawsuits that may be filed should any local jurisdiction use the resolution to support anti-marriage initiatives.
The bad news: it was pretty much ignored.
The good news: the resolution is non-binding. According to TEP, “though it had no legal force, the resolution insults the LGBT community.”