NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — This session, the Tennessee General Assembly is set to discuss proposed bans on transgender health care for minors as well as a ban on “adult cabaret performances” in certain places.
But the measures are not the first anti-LGBTQ bills proposed by Tennessee lawmakers. Last year, Tennessee was ranked the most trans-unfriendly state in the nation by the Transgender Law Center. Lawmakers have passed bills restricting hormone treatment for gender dysphoric or gender incongruent teens; bills requiring businesses to post signs stating whether they allowed trans patrons to use their preferred restrooms; measures banning trans athletes from competing in middle and high school sports; and others.
Here are some of the bills passed by the General Assembly over the years and where they stand now.
In 2021, Gov. Bill Lee signed two different measures involving trans people and bathrooms. The first put public schools and school districts at risk of legal action if they allowed transgender students or staff to use multi-person locker rooms or restrooms that did not align with their assigned sex at birth.
This bill passed, was signed by the governor and went into effect in Tennessee July 1, 2021. It remains in effect today.
The other bathroom-related legislation required businesses to post signs at the entrance of restrooms if they allowed trans people to use the restroom that matches with the gender they align with. The sign, if the business allowed it, would have to read, “THIS FACILITY MAINTAINS A POLICY OF ALLOWING THE USE OF RESTROOMS BY EITHER BIOLOGICAL SEX, REGARDLESS OF THE DESIGNATION ON THE RESTROOM,” or they could face legal challenges.
This law went into effect July 1, 2021, but was challenged by a Nashville business owner, Bob Bernstein, who owns “Fido.” An injunction blocking the law from going into effect during court proceedings was granted eight days later, on July 9. A federal judge later struck down the law entirely, stating in part, “Transgender Tennesseans are real. The businesses and establishments that wish to welcome them are real. And the viewpoints that those individuals and businesses hold are real, even if they differ from the views of some legislators or government officials. While those government officials have considerable power, they have no authority to with those opposing viewpoints away.”
The most controversial anti-trans bill passed last legislative session barred trans athletes from competing in middle or high school sports without proving their sex at birth.
The measure was backed by Republicans in the General Assembly and the governor, who signed the bill in March 2021. At the time, Gov. Lee said it would “preserve women’s athletics and ensure fair competition” for athletic events.
The bill went into effect March 26, 2021, having become effective upon Gov. Bill Lee’s signature.
Another anti-LGBTQ bill considered in the General Assembly last session required school districts to alert parents 30 days in advance before students are taught about sexual orientation or gender identity, including an opt-out provision.
The bill was signed by Gov. Lee and remains in effect today.
The first bill lawmakers introduced in the 112th General Assembly prohibited doctors from providing minors with gender-affirming care or else be opened to civil action. The bill applied to both surgical procedures and prescription medications, particularly for prepubescent minors. The measure was opposed by multiple medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.
Gov. Bill Lee signed the legislation in May 2021, and it went into effect immediately. It remains in effect today.
Another bill proposed by lawmakers in the last legislative session would have defined marital contracts in the state as between “one man” and “one woman,” fully excluding same-sex couples.
Critics of the bill said it was an unconstitutional effort to circumvent the 2015 Supreme Court opinion that legalized gay marriage in the nation. Supporters of the bill, however, said it was simply supportive of religious officials who did not want to offer marriage to same-sex couples in conflict with their beliefs.
A side effect of the bill caught national attention, as it lacked a minimum age requirement, and would have therefore made child marriage legal in Tennessee.
The bill never made it out of committee last year, moved by its sponsor to summer study, effectively killing the legislation for the session.