Human Rights Campaign Condemns Tennessee Legislature for Advancing Slate of Discriminatory Bills This Week

by Aryn Fields

The Human Rights Campaign condemned the Tennessee legislature for advancing several discriminatory bills this week, all of which restrict the the rights of Tennesseans and many of which make Tennessee an increasingly difficult place for LGBTQ+ people to survive, let alone thrive.

Governor Lee has already signed two anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law this year, a ban on age-appropriate, best practice gender-affirming care for transgender youth and a now-enjoined law criminalizing drag performances on public property or any location where people under 18 could be present. Since 2015, Tennessee has enacted more anti-LGBTQ+ laws than any other state in the country, 14 in total so far, including three laws preventing transgender students from playing sports consistent with their gender identity, two bathroom bans, a law allowing discrimination by state contractors providing child welfare services paid for with taxpayer funds, curriculum censorship bills, and more. Tennessee’s attack on LGBTQ+ people has been unrelenting.

The bills from this week are as follows:

  • The TN House and Senate passed HB 727 / SB 1443, that would limit students access to important educational instruction and goals by requiring written consent from parents before students can participate in any surveys, evaluations, “family life” instruction, and general health programs. It puts an additional burden on teachers and schools who already have limited resources, and intentionally aims to limit the inclusive teaching of LGBTQ+ content and sex education. The bill now heads to Governor Lee for consideration.
  • The TN House and Senate passed HB 306 / SB 1237, which is an anti-transgender sports ban that allows private schools to prohibit transgender students from playing sports consistent with their gender identity. This would place schools that accept federal funds in conflict with Title IX. This would be Tennessee’s fourth anti-transgender sports law to pass. The TN Senate passed a similar bill last week. The bill now heads to Governor Lee for consideration.
  • The TN House passed HB 239, which adopts an exclusionary and discriminatory definition of sex which would exclude LGBTQ+ people from state non-discrimination laws and allow discrimination against transgender people in critical services including rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters, in detention facilities, as well as in bathrooms, locker rooms, school athletics and beyond. The bill now heads to Governor Lee for consideration.
  • The TN House passed HB 1269, which allows for the intentional misgendering and deadnaming of transgender and non-binary students by their peers. The bill now heads to Governor Lee for consideration.
  • The TN House and Senate passed HB 158/ SB 102, which prohibits public education institutions from requiring implicit bias training. The bill now heads to Governor Lee for consideration.

Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow issued the following statement today:

“Extremist lawmakers in Tennessee are doing everything in their power to strip LGBTQ+ Tennesseans of their rights and make their lives as difficult as possible. They’ve made headlines over and over again because their legislation is dangerous and discriminatory. From targeting transgender kids in school, to legislating what kinds of flags a school or library can hang, to making it hard for students to learn about fact based, sex education - these politicians made it clear they do not care about their constituents, only their own power. We know they’re not going to back down, but neither will Tennesseans. As Tennesseans fight back and make their voices heard, HRC is right behind them.”

The Facts About Anti-Transgender Sports Bans

A majority of Americans oppose discriminatory bills seeking to ban transgender and non-binary youth from participation in sports. A PBS/NPR/Marist poll states that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose the anti-transgender sports ban legislation proliferating across 30 states. And a poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group revealed that, with respect to transgender youth participation in sports, the public’s strong inclination is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student athletes. 73% of voters agree that “sports are important in young people’s lives. Young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”

Advocates for women and girls in sports support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports. This includes the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others — including prominent female athletes like Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Cheryl Reeve. That’s because while there are real issues facing women’s sports, including a lack of resources devoted to supporting them, transgender participation in athletics is not one of them. And nearly 550 college athletes have stood up to anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states that have enacted anti-trans sports laws.

The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups oppose sports bans. 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 children in particular.

In 2022, lawmakers introduced 80 bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law. 19 states exclude transgender athletes in school sports.

For more information, please access the following resources on HRC’s website:

State Leg Snapshot

So far in 2023, HRC is opposing more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. More than 210 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 120 bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, eleven have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
  • More than 30 bathroom ban bills filed,
  • More than 100 curriculum censorship bills and 40 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.

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