ACLU-TN Statement on "LGBT Erasure" Bill's Passage

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
May 1, 2017 9:45 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Tennessee
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NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Senate voted today to pass the legislation that attempts to restrict the interpretation of certain words in Tennessee laws to gender-specific definitions. The House passed the measure on March 16.

SB 1085/HB 1111, sponsored by Sen. John Stevens and Rep. Andrew Farmer, would require that any undefined words in Tennessee law “be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language.” Under this bill, terms like “husband,” “wife,” mother” and “father” could only be interpreted as gender-specific under the law.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery recently issued an opinion stating that this legislation could force some Tennessee laws into conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell, which established marriage equality nationwide.

The attorney general also pointed out that the measure also actually contradicts another part of Tennessee code that explicitly states that where gendered terms are used, they should be considered inclusive of all genders or neutral, unless otherwise explicitly written into that particular part of the law.

The following can be attributed to ACLU-TN Executive Director Hedy Weinberg:

“We are very disappointed that the Tennessee General Assembly voted to support this vague and overly broad measure, which aims to prevent full recognition of LGBT people and undermine their treatment as equal residents of our state. We urge Governor Haslam to veto this bill to ensure that LGBT Tennesseans are treated equally under the law.”

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