Human Rights Campaign Condemns Tennessee House For Passing Bill Protecting Teachers Who Refuse To Use Student’s Correct Pronouns

by Delphine Luneau

HB 2633 Would Allow School Personnel To Intentionally Misgender Students, Protect Personnel from Termination for Doing So, Setting Up Clear Violation of Federal Civil Rights Law (Title IX)

NASHVILLE – Today, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned the passage by the Tennessee House of Representatives of discriminatory anti-transgender legislation, H.B 2633. The legislation would, if passed, allow teachers and other school personnel to refuse to use a transgender student’s correct pronouns and protect school personnel from termination or state civil lawsuits as a result. However, refusing to use a student’s correct pronouns is a form of harassment in violation of federal civil rights law and will set the state up for administrative enforcement actions as well as federal lawsuits.

Transgender students, like all students, have a right to be treated with dignity and respect at school, and federal civil rights laws protect the rights of transgender students, too. Research shows that supportive school environments lead to better outcomes for students. The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender youth in particular. This is not serious legislation - it is one more effort, by a legislature that has a long track record of attacks on LGBTQ+ people, to further marginalize transgender students.

Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley released the following statement in reaction to the vote:

“Tennessee has introduced more than 60 anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation in the last three years, and troublingly many of those have targeted students in Tennessee schools. Last year, Tennessee passed two laws targeting transgender kids: preventing transgender students from using bathrooms or changing rooms that align with their gender identity and preventing students from playing school sports. This year, the legislature continues to make it harder to be a transgender kid in Tennessee, extending the sports ban to apply to college, penalizing schools who don’t comply with the ban, and now defying federal law to protect teachers who refuse to acknowledge a student’s gender identity. Nothing in H.B. 2633 addresses an actual problem or improves the lives of anyone - instead, it is one more mean-spirited attack on children that will invite the ire of the federal government. Shame on Tennessee.”

Transgender people, and especially transgender youth, are under attack like never before. In the last three years, anti-LGBTQ groups and politicians have singled out transgender kids to deny them access to gender-affirming medical treatment, prevent them from participating in sports teams consistent with their gender identity, and deny access to bathrooms. 2020 set a record number for anti-transgender bills filed with 79 bills, largely focused on attacking transgender youth; 2021 surpassed that record with 147 such bills filed in 34 states. In 2022, at least 300 anti-LGBTQ bills are already pending in state legislatures, about half of which specifically target transgender youth and ban them from being able to fully participate in everyday life. For transgender youth – who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence – to bear the weight of these attacks year after year, these bills take a toll. Politicians are culpable for the harms they inflict by continuing to consider bills that target transgender youth.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organizations 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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