Tennessee General Assembly Adjourns
Late last night, Thursday, June 18, 2009, the 1st Session of the 106th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned. During the session, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) tracked 97 bills and was active lobbying on a number of issues.
Education: TTPC worked against a bill which would have banned public school teachers from discussing sexual diversity. The House K-12 Subcommittee sent the bill to the Tennessee State Board of Education for study. The Board must report back to the General Assembly by March 2010. TTPC was part of a broad coalition of opponents which included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Tennessee Education Association, and the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP). TTPC also supported Safe School and anti-gang bills and which should provide more protection for LGBT youth against harassment and bullying.
Employment: Although there was no specific bill introduced that would ban discrimination in hiring based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, TTPC continued to educate legislators about the need for such legislation.
Family Issues: TTPC vigorously opposed a bill which would ban unmarried, cohabiting couples in a sexual relationship from adopting children in 2009. TTPC viewed this bill as moralizing and discriminatory. We were joined by many groups including the ACLU, Davidson County Democratic Women, TEP, and virtually every child advocacy, family planning, and medical group in the state. We will continue to monitor this issue and will oppose any efforts to limit the rights of LGBT people to adopt.
Hate Crimes: TTPC had a bill introduced in 2009, SB253 by Senators Beverly Marrero and Ophelia Ford, and HB335 by Representative Jeanne Richardson and 21 others, which would add gender identity or expression to the Hate Crimes Penalty Enhancement Act of 2000. We have rolled this bill until January 2010 to continue building support. We already have a long list of allies for this bill, including the NAACP and NOW, and we anticipate finding more support across the state.
Health Care: TTPC continued to educate legislators on the need to expand health care coverage and resources to all Tennesseans, and to ensure that the coverage was not denied to anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Personal Documents: TTPC supported several bills expressing opposition to the Federal Real ID Act of 2005. TTPC also opposed several bills with would require new Photo Identification to vote, because we believe this legislation will disfranchise transgender voters. This legislation was also opposed by the ACLU, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and TEP. One bill passed in the Senate, but was defeated in the House. We will continue to oppose any such legislation in the future.
Birth Certificates: TTPC had two bills introduced which would repeal Tennessee's one-of-a-kind ban on gender changes on birth certificates. These bills were sponsored by Senator Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis), Representative Michael Kernell (D-Memphis), and Representative Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis). We will continue working with our sponsors to get this important legislation passed in 2010.
Relationships: The House Republican Caucus announced in late 2008 that they would push a bill to ban recognition of civil unions. No such bill was introduced in 2009, but we do anticipate seeing it in 2010. TTPC previously opposed this legislation in 2004, and is prepared to oppose any such bill in the future.
The 2nd Session of the 106th General Assembly will convene at 12 Noon CST, on Tuesday, January 12, 2009. TTPC will continue to work for equal rights legislation including transgender persons, and will continue to oppose any legislation denying equal rights to all.
If you do not know the names of your state legislators, go to http://www.capitol.tn.gov.
In addition, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition urges swift passage in the United States Senate of S.909, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The House of Representatives has already passed this legislation by a vote of 249 to 175. We anticipate a vote on this long overdue legislation before the end of July.
Please contact both of Tennessee's Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and tell them you want to them to support S.909. With the recent rash of hate crimes across the nation, and with new statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs showing a sharp increase in hate crimes against LGBT people across the nation, and similar statistics from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation showing a sharp increase in hate crimes as well in Tennessee, there must be federal legislation to protect all LGBT people when local authorities refuse to act.
We also ask everyone to continue talking to both U.S. Representatives and Senators about the importance of the fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We have heard that the fully inclusive ENDA will be introduced soon, possibly as early as next week. Such legislation was introduced for the first time in 2007, but it never came up for a vote. It is time to end job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. If LGBT people can find, and hold, decent paying jobs, then we are less likely to end up on the streets where we become vulnerable to hate crimes.