Tennessee Lawmakers Shamefully Advance Symbolic Anti-Marriage Equality Resolution

by Stephen Peters

WASHINGTONToday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, and Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), the statewide organization working to advance the values of equality and inclusion for LGBT people, decried a resolution advancing in the Tennessee State Legislature. Without debate in an entirely symbolic voice vote yesterday, the House Civil Justice Committee advanced House Joint Resolution (HJR) 529, a resolution that allows lawmakers to express their animosity for the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of nationwide marriage equality last June.

“Though only symbolic, the House Civil Justice Committee’s shameful vote to encourage defiance of the highest court in the United States is a slap in the face to loving and committed same-sex couples all over the Volunteer State,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Lawmakers should be using their time and resources to help all families, but instead have prioritized harmful attacks on LGBT Tennesseans. We urge elected officials in the House to reject this mean-spirited resolution that serves absolutely no legitimate purpose.”

"HJR 529 sends a message that Tennessee's Legislature would disrupt the marriages of thousands of LGBT people in our state if they could,” said Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders. “Though without the force of the law, the resolution is a painful reminder of how strong the will to discriminate is and of the challenges we must overcome.”

“When Ijpe and I were stationed in Tennessee, we weren’t sure what kind of a welcome we would receive,” said Thom Kostura & Ijpe DeKoe, one of the three Tennessee plaintiff couples in the Tanco v. Haslam case, which was decided as a part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. “We were quick to learn that Tennesseans have a long tradition of recognizing that a marriage, valid where celebrated, is valid everywhere. As marriage plaintiffs, Ijpe and I knew we were supported by countless of Tennesseans who respected our marriage and understood that we were not much different than any other loving couple deserving of protection under the law. We feel this resolution is in direct contradiction to the warm welcome we received while living in Tennessee, and are saddened that a small minority are so willing to undo the loving support of so many Tennesseans.”

Last month, lawmakers voted down the Natural Marriage Defense Act, an extreme measure which disgracefully sought to eliminate marriage equality in the state and require the state to defend in court marriage as “between one man and one woman.” The bill would have placed the financial burden on Tennessee taxpayers to defend lawsuits challenging this unconstitutional and shameful discrimination in all resulting legal challenges. Analysis by the Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee determined that passage of the bill could cost the state upwards of $8 billion annually. In response to the failed vote, Tennessee lawmakers have sadly double downed on their anti-LGBT agenda by advancing discriminatory legislation such as HJR 0529.

The anti-equality legislation advanced in Tennessee is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. To date, HRC is tracking over 150  anti-LGBT bills in 31 states. These range from legislation attempting to undermine marriage equality; proposals aimed to authorize individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people; bills seeking to restrict or criminalize transgender people who use restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity; and even legislation aimed at eliminating the ability of local governments to protect LGBT residents and visitors. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.

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

Founded in 2004, Tennessee Equality Project is a statewide organization advancing the rights of Tennessee's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.  For more information, visit TNEP.org.


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