BREAKING: Tennessee Senate Passes Bill to Codify Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ People Into Law

by HRC Staff

SB 1440 Will Have a Disproportionate Impact on Transgender People

Nashville, Tennessee – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization – condemns the Tennessee Senate for passing SB 1440, a bill that attempts to discriminate against LGBTQ+ Tennesseans by codifying “sex” as “a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth and evidence of a person’s biological sex” throughout state code.

This bill also makes LGBTQ+ people more susceptible to discrimination by defining sex in a way that prevents LGBTQ+ Tennesseans from being covered by state nondiscrimination laws. It will have a disproportionate impact on transgender people.

In response, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow released the following statement:

“Extremist Tennessee Senators are continuing their assault on LGBTQ+ Tennesseans’ ability to live their lives openly and honestly. This is their latest cruel attempt to stigmatize, marginalize and erase the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender Tennesseans. Let’s be clear: the goal of this bill is to exclude the LGBTQ+ community from nondiscrimination protections in the state of Tennessee and to perpetuate a false narrative of who transgender people are. The Human Rights Campaign strongly condemns the Senate’s actions today and encourages the Tennessee House to oppose this discriminatory bill.”

Earlier this month, Governor Bill Lee signed a bill that will prevent transgender youth from accessing age-appropriate, best practice medical care. The Governor also signed the country’s first ban on some drag performances in one of our country’s legendary music capitals - restricting artists’ freedom of expression and ability to entertain and perform.

Since 2015, Tennessee has enacted 14 anti-LGBTQ+ laws, more than any other state in the country. It has passed novel legislation, like the business bathroom sign law and the drag ban, and been part of every trend in anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent years: Tennessee has banned transgender students from playing school sports three times; forbidden students from using the correct bathroom at school; allowed government contractors providing child welfare services to discriminate with taxpayer dollars; regulated the ability of transgender youth to access age-appropriate gender affirming care, and several others.

And, this is just the start in Tennessee with many more anti-LGBTQ+ bills still making their way through the state legislature.

So far in 2023, HRC is tracking more than 410 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. Approximately 180 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.

This year, HRC is tracking:

  • More than 100 bills that would prevent trans youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; four have already become law, in Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Utah,

  • More bathroom ban bills filed than in any previous year,

  • More than 80 curriculum censorship bills and 35 anti-drag performance bills.

In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law. Despite this, fewer than 10% of these efforts succeeded. The majority of the discriminatory bills – 149 bills – targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law.

Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in 2022 took several forms, including:

  • 80 bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity. 19 states now exclude transgender athletes in school sports.

  • 42 bills to prevent transgender and non-binary youth from receiving life-saving, medically-necessary gender-affirming healthcare. 5 states now restrict access to gender-affirming care.

  • 70 curriculum censorship bills tried to turn back the clock and restrict teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ issues and other marginalized communities in their classrooms. 7 passed into law.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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