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Tennessee Equality Project: ‘2016 could be one of the worst’ years for LGBTQ rights

Tennessee Equality Project: ‘2016 could be one of the worst’ years for LGBTQ rights
In a recent message to members, Chris Sanders, chairman of the Tennessee Equality Project, warned that “2016 could be one of the worst” years for LGBTQ rights, and lists several antigay measures to be aware of:

*The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act was filed in September.  It would attempt to nullify the Supreme Court’s June marriage equality ruling.

*Various Turn the Gays Away/RFRA bills like those designed to “protect” clergy, businesses, and local officials from having to serve the LGBT community.

*Anti-transgender bathroom bill.  It hasn’t been filed yet, but it may be coming.  It is particularly troublesome because of the danger to which it exposes transgender and gender non-conforming youth.

*Counseling Discrimination.  The bill would allow students enrolled in counseling, psychology, and social work programs at public universities in Tennessee to turn away clients based on their religious beliefs.  The bill was sidelined earlier this year, but it could be back in 2016.

*Defunding the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  That has come up again just this week.

*Local non-discrimination ordinances nullified.  In the unconfirmed rumors section, we would add that there is the possibility of bills being filed to nullify city or county ordinances that protect their own local government employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In an article for Nashville Scene, journalist Jeff Woods writes that gay rights activists are preparing for a dreadful session when the legislature reconvenes in 2016, writing:

“This is the legislature so bent on discrimination that every year it’s the object of outrage and ridicule in the national media for its new and ever more demented attempts to make gay people’s lives miserable. A lawmaker once threatened weirdly to “stomp a mudhole” in transgender people, and another warned God might destroy the whole state sort of like Sodom and Gomorrah for leniency to gay people.”

Rep. Rick Womick, he reports, believes Tennessee should stop giving marriage licenses to anyone to ensure that no gay couples get their hands on one.

On the heels of trying to impeach Gov. Bill Haslam over gay marriage — a crusade that failed — Woman explained why he thinks marriage licenses should stop being distributed altogether:

“We as a state, as a legislature would then be standing up to the Supreme Court and saying: ‘You are out of bounds. You don’t have the authority to tell us what we can or can’t do. And you can’t make us issue licenses not only to same sex couples but to heterosexual couples. You can’t make us do anything if it’s not in the Constitution. It is a state’s rights issue.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Pody and cosponsor Sen. Mae Beavers are pushing their Tennessee Defense of Natural Marriage Act, which claims:

“Any court decision purporting to strike down natural marriage, including (a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision), is unauthoritative, void, and of no effect.”

“Natural marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman, as recognized by the people of Tennessee, remains the law in Tennessee, regardless of any court decision to the contrary…

“Whereas, not all orders claiming authority under color of law are in fact lawful.”

“Whereas, unlawful orders, no matter their source — whether from a military commander, a federal judge, or the United States Supreme Court — are and remain unlawful, and should be resisted.”

Chris Sanders say there’s such an onslaught of bad bills that there is simply not enough time to lobby for solutions that could fight discrimination:

“Given all the negative legislation coming and given how few resources there are in Tennessee, we have to ask ourselves whether it makes any sense spending time on legislation that is great in terms of its content but has no chance of passing,” he says. “In order responsibly to deal with the attacks, we have to spend our time there.”

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