Yesterday evening, OUTvoices Nashville correspondent Brian Sullivan spoke with Tennessee Equality Project's Chris Sanders about the state of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly. It's already been a long and destructive session, with the governor signing a bill legislating that trans youth can only participate in athletics based on the gender marker assigned at birth. Other bills, particularly aimed at trans and LGBTQ youth, continue to move.
Watch as Sanders and Sullivan discuss this year's anti-LGBTQ legislation and what the possible end-games of the Tennessee GOP are with regard to LGBTQ rights in Tennessee.
As an onslaught of anti-LGBTQ bills are introduced across the country, the state of Tennessee leads the nation with a record of at least 12. Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders joins us for a #SlateOfHate update to break down where these bills are in their progression and how YOU can get involved.Posted by OUTvoices Nashville on Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Thank you for joining us. Brian Sullivan reporting for out voices Nashville a record 12 anti LGBTQ bills have hit the Tennessee State Legislature this session just today. Hb 800 a bill banning LGBTQ materials and textbooks passed the Tennessee house Education Committee. That bill now goes through the house finance committee, Hb 578, a bill introduced by Representative Reagan is an attack on gender affirming care, according to activists and tomorrow, Senate Bill 126, another anti trans youth bill hits the senate floor. Joining me tonight with one of the leading organizations finding one thing called Tennessee's slate of hate, Tennessee equality project executive director Chris Sanders. Chris, thank you so much for joining us. Well, I appreciate you having us, Brian.
Let's get right to it if we can. I know that a lot of people feel overwhelmed by the number of and it seems like that's intentional, by the number of anti LGBTQ bills being thrown at us in the Tennessee slate state legislature. And people just feel so confused and don't understand what the bills are, what the bills are saying, What is wrong with them, that they don't know what to do to act, they many, many of us feel powerless. Is that something that you've heard from some of Tennessee equality project supporters?
I think the number of bills and the
intensity of them are certainly overwhelming to people.
And I understand that. And if people need to sit out for a bit or take time off from that, can't do it. I get it. What has been encouraging is the number of people who have stepped up and have quickly jumped into roles to try to help I've had good response from people who want to feel media calls. I've had very good response from people wanting to meet with legislators.
participation in the email campaigns comes and goes, we've had very good response from people wanting to participate in phone banks against the bills. So I know there are people overwhelmed.
Some people are in a position where they can turn that into action.
Can you maybe give us a brief outline of what bills have passed and been signed? What bills have passed and are awaiting signature? What is the state of what's being called Tennessee slate of hate? And just so people understand what the bills are and where they're at right now? Yeah. Well, the first bill that was filed was filed before the session and it passed and became law. And that's the anti trans student athlete bill, Senate Bill 228. So that one is done, except for what's coming forward in the courts. And I fully expect there to be a legal challenge. And my hope is that we will get similar results that other states have seen and it will be enjoined and eventually overturned. There is a bill that wood
to use an old word fiddle with what marriage equality.
It has not moved. Thankfully,
there was a bill, Senate Bill 193 that would have threatened in diversity training for state government and local government employees. That bill was taken off notice in the middle of March, thankfully. And that's very important to us because it affects all minority communities. And some local governments and some public colleges and universities do have LGBTQ inclusive diversity training.
There is a bill sb 1229 by Senator rose and Representative Moody, that is a parent opt out, Bill. And I know you all have talked about that bill, some That bill has passed the Senate and is headed to the House floor. And my guess is that, you know, the governor would sign that one. Did you have a question about that one before we move on? I had a question about the when you said fiddle with marriage equality. What is within the state's power in a SCOTUS decision where they could potentially meddle with that law? Well, there should be nothing there should be.
So I understand people's reactions.
But what people need to remember is Roe versus Wade.
After that decision, there shouldn't have been anything states could do with respect to reproductive justice.
Did they give up?
They fought to try to peel away at abortion in legislatures every year since.
And they keep trying to find ways to get cases back before the courts. And they've done that every year in Tennessee. Since the obergefell decision on marriage equality. I don't know whether they will continue to do that since they are so obsessed with trans youth right now. But there is a bill that would allow them to make an effort at least. I didn't mean to interrupt you from it's not at all gone. If you could go back. I believe you left off at Senate Bill 1229. Yeah, and we talked about that one. So next is House Bill 578. By representative Reagan. This is the bill that really attacks gender affirming care for trans youth.
The bill has not moved in the Senate. I don't think it's gonna move in the senate this year, but we watch it all the way to the end. It will be up in the house Health Committee on April 14, it was supposed to be heard today. But there was a snafu with an amendment.
So they rolled that one.
Um, just to interject there. I don't mean to interrupt you, but GLS e n, or I think you do. I mean, obviously the only way you could ask your question, Brian, is if
I dropped away, no, I just wanted to let our viewers know that dlse in Tennessee is planning a group to be at Cordell Hall on April 14, and you can follow them on their Facebook page to find out more information on that as well.
Okay, let me see where we left off.
Hb 800 is the bill that bans LGBTQ content in public school textbooks and instructional materials. It's kind of an updated version of the don't say gay bill, and it passed the House education instruction committee today, it's headed to house finance, where it may face some difficulties, because it could be expensive to replace, and get rid of a bunch of library books and other materials that you have right now.
It is said that it will not be moving in the senate this year, because it's just too late for it to start.
Here's a bill that didn't move Senate Bill 1238. It is a plain old anti transgender bathroom bill.
But it would have applied to more than schools it would have applied to, you know, a variety of public settings. It's not just an anti student bill, it would have been just about anywhere, basically in Tennessee,
Hb 1233. This is
a student bathroom bill 2.0. And what it basically says is
that schools must offer an accommodation to trans students. And if sis students catch someone who they think shouldn't be in a bathroom,
then their parents can sue the school.
That's their enforcement mechanism on that one.
it's been delayed because of finance issues. Because guess what, when you discriminate against trans kids in schools, there is a risk of federal education funding been withheld.
So the legislature is sorting through that risk right now. And we will know in a couple of weeks whether they find it to be an acceptable or an unacceptable risk.
The whole thing is pretty scary.
The next bill is Senate Bill 1224. And this is the bathroom sign mandate. And it has very insulting language in basically any business that has trans inclusive, multi use restrooms. In other words, more than one stall more than one single occupancy, you're going to have to put a sign up that says this facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, thereby racing non binary people and insulting trans people regardless of the designation on the restaurant.
The obvious result of this is that more people will be policing trans people in bathrooms and taking out their aggression against trans inclusive businesses, like we saw against target a few years ago when they announced their policy.
Do you know if that bill has any language that would prohibit businesses from launching several lawsuits against the state
For having to put that sign in place.
No, I don't believe the state can ban lawsuits against itself.
So I would hope that there would be businesses that would sue. And here in my mind would be the basis, I'm not a constitutional attorney.
But because of the phrase biological sex,
that is forcing a business to adopt a message, as opposed to just safety, language, safety language would be neutral, something like caution, wet floor. There's nothing ideological about that side.
But when you force a business to say, either biological sex, that's forcing the business to adopt a message and engage in speech,
you in my view, now, you know, we'll leave it to the lawyers after the fact. But I think you're right, your instinct is right, there are good grounds to want to sue and in fact, pursue a lawsuit.
So absolutely, you're right on the money.
This next bill, SB 126,
is on the Senate floor tomorrow.
And it is set for house Health Committee, April 14. Now, this is also an anti trans youth gender affirming care bill. And it none of these bills are acceptable, none of them ever will be. That said, this is at this point.
Not quite the attack bill that representative Reagan's bill is. But our concern with both bills is this.
You should not put standards of healthcare in the Tennessee code. And here's why.
Research on the standard of care leads to new insights, and leads to the protocols being revised. You shouldn't have to amend the law.
Every time, the research tells you that the protocol should be different.
Because that puts you not at the mercy of the researchers in the health care providers. But Tennessee lawmakers
and given their record on trans rights. I don't trust them to amend the law every time the standards change. And in fact, my expectation would be if they pass this bill, then in the future, they would sneak in even more restrictive protocols.
So there is no version of either bill that is going to be good and that we would ever support. So we need to fight both bills. Have any health organizations or
medical personnel offered to speak out about these bills and their test? Oh, sure. Sure. They have been and that, you know, they're lobbying against those bills. Yes, they are. And of course, Dr. Kristen rager, testified against one of them. And yes, medical professionals have made the rounds talking to the committee members.
trans people, parents of trans kids and health care professionals did not request this bill don't want this bill, and have been working against this bill.
I've heard some Republican lawmakers
anti Trump anti trans health care when parents decide to affirm their child and and offer them that health care that they need to transition. I've heard them refer to it as child abuse. And can you talk a little bit about how dangerous that language is? Is that and what that implies and what actually is the case? Yeah.
What it implies is we're going to threaten you with criminal penalties. And that has two effects.
It is dangerous for parents, but it's also dangerous for trans kids because it's a chilling effect. It makes it harder to access life saving health care.
So that's really bad language. And, um, you know,
that's where we are, unfortunately, as a state. I mean,
I think we had all the elements here, but we should never forget
Get that many states are facing these bills. And this is an agenda that centralized right wing organizations are pushing.
you know, it's bad enough the trans kids have to deal with the attitudes. But they've got people
in these think tanks, cooking up ways in various states to harm them, as well.
The attitudes harm trans kids. And then on top of that, you've got the law coming for them.
I read about and a bill that was introduced in North Carolina today that would require someone to any state employee to submit in writing to a parent when any minor expresses gender fluidity or a desire to be referred to as LGBTQ. Have you been in touch with any of the other leading organizations in in various states? I know you've been extremely busy with Tennessee.
But have you all been in contact about the bills that are hitting all across the nation? Well, we've had the bill you mentioned before,
it didn't pass.
And we're in regular touch with national organizations. I don't spend a lot of time comparing notes with other state leaders, mainly talking to national people in national organizations who are keeping track of all the state bills.
I believe we have the most in the worst bills.
The sb 186, where you left off, were there are more that you have to go through
just a couple of more. Sb 659 is a bill that would basically, as it was originally written, the state board of education would have to approve any supplemental materials that a teacher used. And as it's been amended.
Now, the local Board of Ed has to approve those materials. It's still a bad bill, we still oppose it. It's not only directed at us, I think this is also directed at teachers who might bring in materials on current events and issues like Black Lives Matter, or world religions or things like that. I mean, I think
kind of a multiplier effect with with the focus here, but it would affect LGBTQ issues. That bill did pass the House committee today. But the Senate,
deferred it to the first calendar of next year.
And then there's one other bill that did not get a house sponsor, it's by Senator poty, Senate Bill 1208. And it basically equates
being LGBTQ with a religion.
And because of that, it says that the constitution doesn't allow the state to promote religion, so it can't promote LGBTQ
people stuff, whatever. It's an extremely convoluted argument. Apparently, it was too convoluted, even for the most socially conservative members of the Tennessee house. And that's maybe why didn't get a house sponsor. But, you know, Brian, they're throwing anything and everything at us this year, that that one didn't happen to stick, but who knows, over the summer, Senator podi, might be able to convince a house member to sign on, and they might run the bill next year.
Do you think that's plenty?
Chris, I did have some questions. What? What do you say to the parent? Who says, I want to charge of my child's education and and what my child is educated regarding LGBTQ issues, and what is said about it. And I have every right to decide that as a parent, what do you say to that parent?
You have a right to your child getting a good education. And a good education includes education about what's going on in the world. A good education prepares your child to be effective in the world. We always talk about and conservatives love to talk about preparing kids for the workforce. Well guess who's in the workforce. We are. We are part of that. And I can tell you, if you shield your child from that and your child enters the workforce that any fortune 500 company or branch of that company and start acting out at LGBTQ people, your child will find that it's frustrating because going to continue to get fired.
So, in my mind, that's what you have a right to as a parent: an education that prepares your child for the world.
Chris, what I realized this is speculation, but what could possibly be the Tennessee GOP endgame? They keep throwing these bills at us. Every year, let's say all of them pass they keep pummeling us with bills to completely silence us. I mean, when, when is when is the end? When does it stop and we're living in some dystopian society, like what's representing represented on The Handmaid's Tale or some of these other sci fi shows? I mean, what?
It, it just feels endless. And I'm trying to figure out what, what picture of society that the Tennessee GOP is going for? What do they will see? Well, they're not a monolith. And if we grant that they're a monolith, we're, we're done.
We have to find the differences within the Republican Party, if we hope to beat these bills. And there are differences.
There are the true believers who really do believe in The Handmaid's Tale world.
There are the cynical who we couldn't surmise what their real beliefs are. But they will use this for political gain.
There are those who quietly go along with whatever their caucus says. Although their hearts are not in it. And there are very few who will vote no in fight some of these bills.
That's probably not a complete topology of Tennessee Republicans. But that's kind of a range of where we are.
So there is not one vision, there are several, the loudest, most aggressive, is gaining ground.
And that's dangerous for us.
diversity in that party is much better for us in Tennessee. I mean, we can, you know, we could say, well, we want to let 99 Democrats in the Tennessee house. Okay, you can want a lot of things that's not going to happen in the next election. So we have to determine what we do, while the legislature is in session, but before the election.
Now, there are great folks who are working on campaigns. And if you're interested in campaign work, you should contact the county Democratic Party if you're a Democrat, and get involved if you're libertarian contact that whatever your view,
get involved, because there's plenty of campaign work to be done between now and the election. But we have to fight the bills before the election. You know, it's always frustrating to me, I understand why people say it. But when these bills come up, people post vote them out. Well, that's two years away.
What are you going to do now?
And there are things we can do now. And what I'm finding is that in some cases, not all, when people from these rural and suburban districts are meeting with lawmakers, they're pulling their yeses to present not voting or their present not voting into knows. There are some Republicans who voted no on the bill that bans LGBTQ content.
Representative White, Representative Rutter, Representative Maness. So, you know, we need to work on the legislature we have while we also campaign for the legislature we want, we've got to do those two things.
That's probably not quite the answer to your question. But I want to make sure folks understand that there is variety within the Republican Party. And I'm not asking you to be a republican or be a part of any party. I'm just asking you to realize there's that variety and work on it because you can sometimes pull some of those votes away.
Chris, what's coming up next that you would like to see more people get involved in and how can they get involved?
Yeah, glisten, has a phone bank on Monday that they can get involved with. We've been kind of alternating weeks on doing the phone banking. So if you go to glisten, Tennessee's Facebook page, you can find information on their phone bank. It's really easy to do because the script and the numbers are provided for you Brian ufone bank so you know that it's something that can be easily done. You have a bit of community because you're all on the
Zoom there together.
You know, we need people who are willing to meet with their legislators within the next two weeks, especially people outside Nashville, if they will email me [email protected]
I will tell them how to get that meeting set up, and we'll prep them for that meeting. But we need people in those districts talking to their own legislators.
Yes, I want you to do the email campaigns. Yes, I want you to leave messages at night for legislators. But if you're ready to do something more personal.
Then consider contacting us about how to meet one on one by phone resume with your legislator. Because those are important conversations. You may be the first person to have a policy conversation about LGBTQ issues with your lawmaker. That is not talking points from talk radio.
Chris, I can't thank you enough for joining us tonight. Thank you for excuse me breaking those bills down and fighting the good fight. I know you're very exhausted. And I hope that you're taking care of yourself and get some sleep tonight, and we appreciate you for joining us. Well, I appreciate you having us and being flexible so we could do this at eight tonight.
Everyone Chris Sanders with the Tennessee equality project, there will be a link in the description of this video where you can follow the Tennessee quality project to keep up with action.
Requests for their followers and you can keep up with alerts on these bills that are swiftly moving through the Tennessee State Legislature. You also want to subscribe to out voices Nashville alerts. Thank you so much. Thank you
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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