Queer people and allies are mobilizing against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in states across the country.
Following the passage last week of two Tennessee laws intended to drastically restrict drag performances and ban gender-affirming care for minors, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) plans to hold a rally in Nashville on Thursday in protest. The two laws, signed by Gov. Bill Lee (R), are just the latest in what HRC says are more than a dozen anti-LGBTQ+ laws passed in Tennessee since 2015. According to the LGBTQ+ rights organization, Tennessee has passed more anti-LGBTQ+ laws than any other state.
The HRC has also targeted Lee with a full-page ad in one of Tennessee’s largest newspapers featuring a photo of the governor in drag from his 1977 high school yearbook.
In a press release, HRC President Kelley Robinson said that Lee “isn’t just focused on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation—he’s obsessed with it.”
“He’s infatuated with it. It’s why Tennessee has enacted more anti-LGBTQ+ laws than any other state since 2015, and why Gov. Lee last week became the very first governor in the country to sign a drag ban into law. Hypocrisy and discrimination run rich in the Tennessee of Gov. Lee — who himself formerly enjoyed dressing in drag but who is now working feverishly to prove otherwise.”
“But what’s truly unforgivable, Robinson continued, “is that Gov. Lee’s agitated focus on the LGBTQ+ community has now shamelessly targeted transgender and nonbinary youth, seeking to deny them access to age-appropriate, lifesaving gender-affirming care. This is why we took out a full-page ad in The Tennessean and why we’ll be rallying in Nashville on Thursday: Because it’s time for Gov. Lee to hear loud and clear that Tennesseans are tired of the political theater, and that discrimination and hypocrisy have no place in Tennessee.”
HRC’s protest follows Iowa’s recent “Rally to Resist.” On Sunday, a crowd of close to 2,000 parents, students, educators, faith leaders, community organizers, and elected officials gathered at the Iowa State Capitol to protest the record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced during the state’s current legislative session.
“Iowans have had enough,” declared a news release from Progress Iowa. “We understand that our friends, neighbors, and family members are under attack and their rights are being stripped away. And Iowans are unified against anti-LGBTQ bills. No politician has the right to tell us which bathroom to use, deny us medical care, dictate which pronouns to call ourselves, ban books and curriculum, roll back civil rights, deny adoption and foster care, do away with marriage equality, or call queer people obscene.”
The rallies come amidst other protests across the U.S. Last week. Hundreds of Iowa students at 47 schools across the state walked out of class in opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ bills, according to the Des Moines Register. Similarly, hundreds of Kentucky high school students walked out of class last month protesting the state’s proposed law that would negatively impact LGBTQ+ inclusive school policies.
Smaller rallies have taken place outside statehouses and at hearings across the country. Last week, LGBTQ+ advocates gathered outside the Kentucky State Capitol to protest bills that would ban gender-affirming care and restrict drag performances. And last month, protests were held across Montana opposing several anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including one that would prohibit drag performance at any state-funded venue, and make exposing minors to any form of male or female impersonation a crime punishable by fines and repeal of state-granted privileges, like a liquor or cabaret license.