NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) has filed two bills affecting the LGBTQ+ community—one that would outlaw children’s transgender therapy and another to ban drag shows deemed sexual in nature.
Johnson said the legislation isn’t from a place of hate. “The legislation that I’ve introduced for this session is not anti-trans, it’s not anti-LGBTQ,” he said. “It’s pro-child. It is pro-child.”
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A member of the state’s transgender community disagrees. “Every year, we see yet more and more legislation, other slates of hate that work to put those impediments, those roadblocks, those walls in the middle of the path of so many folks to finding out about who they are fully,” Tennessee Equality Project Community Educator and transgender woman Dahron Johnson said.
Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) also filed SB0005 in case someone tries to alter Leader Johnson’s bill. All the legislation has drawn a sharp response from Democrats in the legislature.
“The supermajority loves to say that parents know best when it comes to their children,” Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) said. “But now they’re trying to penalize parents for seeking life-saving care for their families.”
The debate has gone on since a conservative commentator accused Vanderbilt of running its transgender clinic only for profit purposes.
Governor. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) chimed in this week, speaking specifically on Johnson’s bill and what it meant headed into the upcoming session.
“I don’t think that should be happening in our state. I think that members of the General Assembly don’t think that should be happening,” Lee said. “Frankly, I think most Tennesseans don’t think those types of medical procedures for children should happen, and that’s what you’re going to be seeing.”
Democrats, including Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville), have argued that there are far more pressing issues our legislature should be focused on—naming education, DCS issues, and inflation, specifically.
“My Republican colleagues continue to focus on non-issues and take aim at people with whom they may not agree and try to limit their free speech,” said Clemmons.
But Republicans have argued this is a very pressing issue.
“Part of what you’ve seen is a desire for children to be protected in this state, particularly life-altering permanent medical decisions on children,” Lee said.
There’s no guarantee any of these bills become law—the legislature still has to vote to approve them, and they still could be amended or changed significantly. However, the Republican party has signaled fairly broad support for each bill.
Republicans also have a supermajority in both chambers and the governor’s support, making passage fairly likely. The next session starts Jan. 10, 2023.