While the country is responding to the global pandemic of COVID-19 and highlighting systems of racism and police brutality, the Tennessee House of Representatives is focusing its time and resources on attacking transgender youth, those most marginalized within the LGBTQ community. On Wednesday, the Tennessee House passed HB 1689, an anti-transgender sports bill by a 73-13-2 vote. The overwhelming support for this egregious legislation is deplorable, but particularly disheartening given the crises that both the country and the state of Tennessee are facing.
HB 1689, if enacted into law, would prohibit schools from allowing transgender students to play in sports consistent with their gender identity by forcing students to prove their gender identity by presenting a birth certificate or genetic/DNA test results.
PSB Research provides that nearly one in 10 LGBTQ people are unemployed, more likely to live in poverty, and cannot afford healthcare — both of which disproportionately affect LGBTQ people of color and youth. LGBTQ people are employed in sectors that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 and will continue to face significant economic and health challenges without viable solutions. These challenges are even more unique for LGBTQ youth who often experience homelessness, unstable housing, live in foster care, rely on child welfare agencies, or experience unsupportive home environments.
Earlier this year, with Gov. Bill Lee’s signing of HB 836 into law, Tennessee earned the distinct dishonor of becoming the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ bill in 2020. HB 836 provides a license to discriminate in the provision of child welfare services, allowing state contractors who provide taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care services to refuse to make child placements with qualified, loving families if the family doesn’t share all of the agency’s religious beliefs.
Tennessee is already facing a budget shortfall as a result of COVID-19, and this week alone has reported over 447 new cases of COVID-19; increasing the total amount of cases to nearly 25,822. With the number of Tennesseans at risk, especially LGBTQ youth, that are experiencing the economic and health disparities of the virus, the Tennessee House should not be focused on discrimination. It’s time for the Tennessee House to focus on the real problems facing Tennesseans.