ICYMI: HRC Condemns TN Governor Lee for Signing Curriculum Censorship Bill Into Law; State’s 16th Anti-LGBTQ+ Law Since 2015

by HRC Staff

Nashville, Tennessee – On Friday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned Tennessee Governor Bill Lee for signing HB 727 / SB 1443 into law, which makes it more difficult for students to access comprehensive and inclusive sex education. The new law will require written consent from parents before students can participate in any surveys, evaluations, “family life” instruction, and general health programs.

In addition, multiple discriminatory bills are waiting for the Governor’s consideration, all of which restrict the rights of Tennesseans and many of which make Tennessee an increasingly difficult place for LGBTQ+ people to survive, let alone thrive.

Governor Lee had already signed three anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law this year, an anti-transgender sports ban, 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, now 16 in total, including four 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 laws, and more. Tennessee’s attack on LGBTQ+ people has been unrelenting.

Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley issued the following statement:

“Week after week and with Governor Lee’s blessing, radical Tennessee lawmakers have inundated the state legislature with hateful, discriminatory bills that target the LGBTQ+ community. This week, Governor Lee further cemented Tennessee's status as the most hostile place for LGBTQ+ people – from making it harder to access appropriate health education to stigmatizing transgender kids in school - he’s made it clear that he prioritizes harmful party politics over human rights. Lee and his minions have been relentless with their attacks, but we know Tennesseans will not let them win.”

Three additional discriminatory bills are also heading to the Governor’s desk, including:

  • HB 239 / SB 1440, which adopts a discriminatory definition of sex that excludes LGBTQ+ people from state non-discrimination laws. It also allows discrimination against transgender people in critical services including rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, detention facilities, bathrooms, locker rooms, school athletics and beyond.

  • HB 1269 / SB 466, which allows for the intentional misgendering and deadnaming of transgender and non-binary students by their peers and teachers.

  • HB 158 / SB 102, which prohibits public education institutions from requiring implicit bias training.

State Lege Snapshot

So far in 2023, HRC is opposing more than 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. More than 220 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 125 bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, 13 have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia and North Dakota, and Montana

  • More than 30 bathroom ban bills filed,

  • More than 100 curriculum censorship bills and 45 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.

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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