Tennessee Lawmakers Pile on 4 More Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills – So Far – On Top of the TWENTY They Have Already Passed in Recent Years

by Alana Caesar

As Other States Across the South Get the Message That It’s Time to Quit Pushing Anti-LGBTQ+ Discrimination, Tennessee Doubles Down and Extends Its Shameful Lead as the State with the Most Anti-Equality Laws Enacted in Modern Times

NASHVILLE, TN — In a truly stunning display of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and targeted misuse of government power, Tennessee lawmakers last week sent to the governor THREE new pieces of legislation targeting the rights and existence of the LGBTQ+ community and has continued working on harmful bills this week. The three bills last week follow on the heels of SB 1738, passed earlier this month and signed by Governor Bill Lee, which could place LGBTQ+ youth in the foster care system into unsupportive homes.

Last week’s newly passed bills, if signed into law, would further extend Tennessee’s shameful, shocking lead among U.S. states in enacting anti-LGBTQ+ laws since 2015:

  • Tennessee: 21 laws enacted (would be **24** if all 3 newly passed bills are signed into law)

  • Arkansas: 13 laws enacted

  • Florida: 13 laws enacted

  • Montana: 12 laws enacted

  • North Dakota: 12 laws enacted

This unrelenting drive to make Tennessee hostile to LGBTQ+ people – and especially transgender people – stands apart, even compared to other states that have pursued discriminatory agendas in recent years. States such as Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and West Virginia have largely ceased their legislative attacks on the community this year.

“Tennessee lawmakers are on the verge of enacting more than twice as many anti-LGBTQ+ laws as any other state, a staggering assault on their own constituents,” Human Rights Campaign Senior Director of Legal Policy Cathryn Oakley said. “LGBTQ+ people and our families live in Tennessee and these unrelenting legislative attacks have made Tennessee an increasingly challenging place to make a home. These policies don’t improve lives, they don’t solve existing problems, they don’t address the real challenges that Tennesseans face every day. They only make life more difficult for people who are simply trying to live their lives. Governor Lee should veto these harmful, discriminatory bills and signal Tennessee's commitment to prioritizing the wellbeing of its citizens, not promoting hate.”

The bills that Tennessee lawmakers passed this month are:

  • HB 2610 (passed by legislators April 8): Would terminate the human rights commission with no wind-down period; creates the human rights division in the office of attorney general; transfers the commission's functions to the new division. Instead of being an independent body, the commission’s duties would fall under a new office reporting to Tennessee’s anti-LGBTQ+ attorney general.

  • SB 2766 (passed by legislators April 8): Would remove a teacher's obligation to ensure that students are not denied or excluded from important educational programs or benefits on the basis of their family status or their sexual orientation. Would remove the requirement that sex education programs in school be medically accurate.

  • SB 2501 (passed by legislators April 11): Establishes deadlines for colleges and universities to investigate student and employee reports alleging that they were penalized for refusing to support so-called “divisive concepts”, specific ideologies, or political views. An institution that fails to investigate or take action within the timeframe would be subject to a withholding of state funds.

  • SB 1738 (passed by legislators April 1): Would explicitly allow people in Tennessee to foster or adopt a child whose sexual orientation or gender identity they refuse to affirm, preventing the state Department of Children’s Services from ensuring that LGBTQ+ youth are placed with supportive caregivers. This bill was signed into law by Gov. Lee on April 11th.

Another harmful bill, HB 2165, has seen slightly different versions path both chambers; those differences would need to be reconciled before it would go to the governor. This bill would force school staff to out transgender students without their consent. And SB 2782, which would criminalize adults who help young trans people receive medically necessary care without a parent’s permission, has passed the Senate and is working its way through the House.

This tsunami of discriminatory legislation follows a brutal cadence of discriminatory laws enacted in recent yearsTennessee has passed novel legislation, like the business bathroom sign law and the drag ban, and been part of, if not led on, every trend in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in recent years. Tennessee has repeatedly banned transgender students from playing school sports, forbidden students from using the correct bathroom at school, allowed government contractors providing child welfare services to discriminate with taxpayer dollars, restricted transgender youth from accessing age-appropriate, medically necessary health care, attempted to undo marriage equality, and more.

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.

Contact Us

To make a general inquiry, please visit our contact page. Members of the media can reach our press office at: (202) 572-8968 or email press@hrc.org.