Tennessee’s 2019 Slate of Hate Is One Reason Why We Need the Equality Act Now

by Hope Jackson

The 2019 legislative session has adjourned in Tennessee, but the fight for equality in the Volunteer State is far from over.

The 2019 Tennessee legislative session has adjourned, but the work for equality in the Volunteer State is far from over. HRC was proud to work alongside the Tennessee Equality Project to fight back against the Slate of Hate -- an egregious slew of anti-LGBTQ bills, ranging from targeting transgender and non-binary people in restrooms and locker rooms and proposals that would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination against transgender students to bills that would create a business license to discriminate and provide a license to discriminate in adoption and foster care services to attacks on same-sex marriage.

While advocates were able to delay the most egregious attacks to the 2020 legislative calendar, unfortunately Governor Bill Lee signed HB 1151 into law by. HB 1151 purportedly expands Tennessee’s indecent exposure laws. Though the bill was heavily amended to remove the most harmful anti-transgender language, the bill still could put transgender and non-binary people at increased risk of harassment and entanglement with law enforcement simply for using restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

Despite this bill’s passage, HRC is extremely proud of all of the efforts of pro-equality advocates and volunteers in Tennessee. From corporate leaders siding against discrimination to faith leaders responding strongly and child welfare professionals speaking out to say that Tennessee children should not pay the cost of discrimination, Tennesseans have made their voices clear that discrimination has no place here.

HRC staffers were on the ground for more than 40 days with Tennessee Equality Project’s Executive Director Chris Sanders and team -- joining three Advancing Equality Days on the Hill, three “Postcards Against the Slate of Hate” events in Rutherford and Putnam counties, attending committee hearings and critical floor votes in the House and Senate, launching nearly 50 email and text actions and mobilizing HRC members and supporters to take action more than 4,000 times.

It was clear that all of these efforts slowed down the movement of these discriminatory bills, and it will take that same energy to keep fighting as Tennessee moves into the 2020 legislative session. Four of the most egregious bills from this session will return in January. These bills are a constant reminder of why HRC is fighting so hard for the Equality Act -- vital legislation that would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people both in Tennessee and at the federal level.

With an Equality Act vote potentially this month, now is the time to make sure members of Congress hear from you. Join more than 90,000 HRC Members as a Community Co-Sponsor and text EQUALITY ACT to 472472 to urge Congress to pass the Equality Act. To find events near you, visit hrc.org/EqualityAct.