Today, HRC and Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), the statewide organization working to advance the values of equality and inclusion for LGBT people, strongly condemned legislation gaining traction in Tennessee that attempts to defy the Supreme Court of the United States on marriage equality. Being pushed by Rep. Mark Pody (R-46), the so-called Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act disgracefully attempts to eliminate marriage equality in the state and would require the state to defend marriage as “between one man and one woman.” The legislation is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.
“The Supreme Court of the United States has unequivocally settled the issue once and for all by making clear that loving and committed same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This legislation is thoroughly unconstitutional, and it would no doubt cost taxpayers significantly in a vain, injudicious attempt to undermine marriage equality for LGBT Tennesseans.”
“This outrageous attack on LGBT Tennessee families is reckless and appalling,” said Chris Sanders of Tennessee Equality Project. "Attempting to undermine the fact that marriage equality is the law of the land is a stain on Tennessee's reputation, an unacceptable risk to our state budget, and a chilling message to LGBT people in Tennessee. Fair-minded people from Memphis to Mountain City are speaking up to say that this extremist attack on equality will not be tolerated. The time for allies to join us is now.”
“We are horrified to learn of this new bill,” said Johno Espejo and Matthew Mansell, one of the three Tennessee plaintiff couples in the Tanco v. Haslam case, which was decided as a part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. “This abhorrent bill is an attempt to unconstitutionally circumvent the law of the land and to specifically single out and harm a minority group. We became plaintiffs in our case precisely in order to fight this type of prejudice being waged against our marriage and our family. This bill is wrong and should be voted down.”
“We are shocked and saddened by this latest legislative maneuver by some members of the Tennessee General Assembly,” said Thom Kostura and Ijpe DeKoe, another of the three plaintiff couples in Tanco v. Haslam. “This legislation does nothing but to insult the dignity of thousands of lawfully married Tennesseans. It also holds the potential for real harm to your friends, families, and neighbors. We urge everyone to consider the very real implications of the proposal, and to reject it completely.”
Seeking to eliminate marriage equality in the state, HB 1412 would place the financial burden on Tennessee taxpayers to defend lawsuits challenging this unconstitutional and shameful discrimination in all resulting legal challenges. Analysis by the Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee determined that passage of the bill could cost the state upwards of $8 billion annually.
The outrageous legislation in Tennessee is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. Earlier this month, HRC released new analysis previewing the state and local legislative battles in the year ahead, including anti-LGBT bills likely to be considered in at least 27 states. To date, HRC is tracking nearly 100 anti-LGBT bills in 24 states. These range from legislation attempting to undermine marriage equality; proposals aimed to authorize individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people; bills seeking to restrict or criminalize transgender people who use restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity; and even legislation aimed at eliminating the ability of local governments to protect LGBT residents and visitors. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.