Tennessee introduces bathroom bill, marriage equality ban

This artist rendering shows Tennessee Associate Solicitor General Joseph Walen arguing before the Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Washington. Justices, from left are, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito Jr., and Elena Kagan. Dana Verkouteren, AP

Two bills to restrict the rights of LGBTQ people were introduced in the Tennessee legislature this week. One bill would state that Tennessee’s policy is to “defend natural marriage;” another requires students to use bathrooms associated with the gender on their birth certificates.

One bill, labeled the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act,” says that the state of Tennessee will only recognize marriage between one man and one woman, and requires state agencies to ignore the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that outlawed discrimination against same-sex couples in marriage law. The bill allows the state legislature to hire counsel to defend the law in the case that the state attorney general decides not to litigate the case and attempt to have the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell.

The bill claims that the Supreme Court is not the final voice on state matters, and points to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments of the US Constitution for support.

The other bill, SB0771, requires public schools to “require that a student use student restroom and locker room facilities that are assigned for use by persons of the same sex as the sex indicated on the student’s original birth certificate.”

Both bills were introduced by Tennessee senator Mae Beavers, and Tennessee representative Mark Pody introduced a version of SB0771 in the house.

The marriage bill contains a long introduction that calls Obergefell a “lawless” decision and accuses Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan of improperly participating in the United States v. Windsor decision since both had previously officiated weddings of same-sex couples. The Windsor decision allowed the federal government to give same-sex couples benefits associated with marriage.

The introduction quotes Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to inspire resistance to “unjust” laws and compares Obergefell to the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that African Americans, whether slave or free, had no standing to sue in federal court.

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