Media Release: TEP reacts to the massive cost of the TN Natural Marriage Defense Act



For immediate release:  March 18, 2017

Contact:  Chris Sanders, 615-390-5252 or


TN Natural Defense Act would cost Tennessee $.5 Million and may reach $2 Billion, according to fiscal note


Nashville, TN--The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act, SB752/HB892 by Senator Mae Beavers and Rep. Mark Pody, was assigned a fiscal note on March 17 that forecasts costs as high as $2 Billion.  The fiscal note is available in pdf at this link.  The bill is up for consideration by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on March 22.


The legislative summary of the bill reads:  “As introduced, enacts the ‘Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act,’ which states the policy of Tennessee to defend natural marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary.”


“The bill would expose same-sex married couples in Tennessee to discrimination with dire consequences and prevent other same-sex couples from getting married while it is challenged in the courts.  But the fiscal note makes it clear that the whole state will suffer because the Bureau of TennCare’s funding could be cut as well as other programs,” notes Tennessee Equality Project executive director Chris Sanders.  “Although hard to estimate the exact cost in legal fees, they are a certainty if this bill passes.  There is no way LGBT Tennesseans will stand for the State attempting to nullify the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling. Considering the human and financial costs, there is no justification for the bill.”


The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act is part of what Tennessee Equality Project calls a “slate of hate,” or discriminatory legislation filed in Tennessee in 2017.  Other bills include SB771/HB888 (the anti-transgender student bathroom bill), SB30/HB33 (LGBT Erasure bill), SB1085/HB1111 (replacement for the original LGBT Erasure bill), SB127/HB54 (Business License to Discriminate bill), and SB1153/HB1406 (artificial insemination bill directed at lesbian couples).  


Over 80 Tennessee clergy have voiced opposition to these bills that are directed at the LGBT community.  Find their names here.


Tennessee Equality Project is a statewide organization working the equality of LGBT Tennesseans.  For more information, go to .


Tennessee rises up against the Slate of Hate

Discriminatory legislation is on the move in Tennessee.  On March 16, the sneaky LGBT Erasure bill passed the House after debate was cut off.  The week of March 20, several anti-LGBT bills are up for a vote.  Get involved by participating in one of the events listed below.  Consider making a small monthly investment in TEP's legislative work here.

*Click on each event to follow a link to a Facebook event.

Monday, March 20


10:00 a.m.  Rutherford County Courthouse for press conference on slate of hate

10:30 a.m.  Sumner County Dem HQ in Gallatin for slate of hate press conference

5:00 p.m.    Knoxville rally against slate of hate

4:00 p.m.    Nashville “We Are Watching” rally in the Capitol

6:00 p.m.    TEP Nashville Committee meeting at OutCentral on Church St


Tuesday, March 21


3:00 p.m.    Legislative Plaza 29 for Anti-Trans bathroom bill hearing

4:00 p.m.    Montgomery County Courthouse for slate of hate press conference

3:00 p.m.    Memphis press conference against slate of hate at OUTMemphis


Wednesday, March 22


9:00 a.m.    Legislative Plaza 31. Wear red against TN Natural Marriage bill

12:30 p.m.  Legislative Plaza 12. Anti-Trans bathroom bill hearing

1:30 p.m.    Legislative Plaza 29.  Wear red against Biz License to Discriminate

6:30 p.m.    Clarksville Library for TEP Montgomery County meeting


Thursday, March 23


5:30 p.m.    Midtown Crossing Grill in Memphis for Pizza and legislative emails

6:30 p.m.    Cultivate Coworking in Murfreesboro for TEP Rutherford meeting


Tuesday, April 4

All Day    TEP’s Advancing Equality Day on the Hill at Legislative Plaza

Clear video evidence links HB1111 to attacks on LGBT relationships, parenting



For immediate release:  March 15, 2017

Contact:  Chris Sanders, 615-390-5252 or


TN House to vote on HB1111 with clear links to attacks on same-sex couples and LGBT parents:  Video link included


Nashville, TN--The Tennessee House of Representatives takes up HB1111 by Rep. Andrew Farmer on Thursday morning, a bill the Tennessee Equality Project calls the “sneaky LGBT Erasure” bill because of its consequences for same-sex couples and LGBT parents.


The legislative summary reads:  “As introduced, requires that undefined words be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest.”  


The language is remarkably similar to SB30/HB33 whose summary reads:  “As introduced, requires that the words "husband," "wife," "mother," and "father" be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language and that are based on the biological distinctions between men and women, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest.”


“The similarities are not a coincidence.  After the backlash that followed the obviously anti-LGBT SB30/HB33, there was a shift to HB1111,” notes Tennessee Equality Project executive director Chris Sanders.  “And now we have clear evidence of the connection between the two bills in a video by Family Action Council of Tennessee.  As well as being outraged by this attack on our relationships and our ability to be parents, we are disturbed that the organization lobbying for the bill is unconcerned that it is likely to be found unconstitutional.”


To see the video linking the bills, go to .


Tennessee Equality Project urges legislators to pause before rushing into an unconstitutional attack that would disrupt Tennessee families.  The last time Tennessee fought marriage equality, the state was liable for legal bills of about $2 Million.  


Over 80 Tennessee clergy have voiced opposition to HB1111 and other bills that are part of a “slate of hate” against the LGBT community.  Find their names here.


Individuals can contact their member of the Tennessee House about the bill using this link


Tennessee Equality Project is a statewide organization working the equality of LGBT Tennesseans.  For more information, go to .



What can I do the rest of this month to resist discrimination?

There are many ways to get involved and resist discrimination this month.  Join us for one of these meetings and events.

*March 15. Gallatin.  TEP Sumner County Committee meeting. RSVP at the link.

*March 16. Antioch.  Lobbying 101.  RSVP at the link.

*March 20. Nashville.  TEP Nashville Committee meeting: Planning for action.  RSVP at the link.

*March 22. Clarksville.  TEP Montgomery County Committee meeting. RSVP at the link

*March 23. Memphis.  TEPizza Night.  RSVP at the link.

*March 23. Murfreesboro.  TEP Rutherford County Committee meeting.  RSVP at the link.

*April 4. Nashville. Advancing Equality Days on the Hill.  RSVP at the link.


Tennessee Clergy Oppose the General Assembly's Slate of Hate


Clergy wishing to add their names to this letter should contact us at

As clergy serving the people of Tennessee, we oppose six pieces of legislation under consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly that attack the LGBT community. 

The values of justice and hospitality compel us to speak out for the dignity of LGBT people and to oppose any effort to enshrine discrimination in the laws of our state.

We urge all people of goodwill to join us in seeking fairness for all residents of Tennessee and to consider the unacceptable ramifications of the following bills:

SB30/HB33. The LGBT Erasure Bill.  By requiring that the words “father,” “mother,” “husband,” and “wife” be given their natural and ordinary meaning, this bill interferes with the identities and families of LGBT people.


SB127/HB54. The Business License to Discriminate Bill.  This subtly worded piece of legislation actually opens the door to allowing businesses and nonprofits to discriminate in their HR and benefit policies while using taxpayer dollars.


SB752/HB892. The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act states the policy of Tennessee to defend marriage as only between one man and one woman regardless of what the courts say.


SB771/HB888. The Anti-Transgender Student Bathroom Bill. This bill requires students to use restrooms according to the sex designation on their birth certificates and not according to their gender identity.


SB1085/HB1111. The Sneaky LGBT Erasure Bill.  This bill does everything that SB30/HB33 does while trying to hide the effects upon the LGBT community from the public. 


SB1153/HB1406. The Attack on Parenthood Bill.  This bill repeals statute that deems a child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman's husband, to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.  This bill is directed at lesbian couples and could affect other couples.


Rev. Ken Edwards, Old Hickory, Wilson County

Rev. Gordon Gibson, Knoxville

Rev. Dr. Diana L. Hynson, Nashville

Rev. Jake Morrill, Oak Ridge

Rev. L. Susan Bond, Jackson

Rev. Joe-d DowlingSoka, Chattanooga

Rev. Steve Wolf, Clarksville

Rev. Jeff Briere, Johnson City

Rev. Judi Hoffman, Nashville

Rev. Elaine Blanchard, Memphis

Rev. Brandon Gilvin, Chattanooga

Rev. Pamela Hawkins, Nashville

Rev. Rik Rouquie, Nashville

Rev. Annie McClure, Nashville

Rev. Paul Slentz, Nashville

Rev. Beth A. Richardson, Nashville

Rev. Tim Kobler, Knoxville

Rev. Emily Reeves Grammer, Madison

Rev. John Feldhacker, Nashville

Rev. Kevin Mitchell, Murfreesboro

Rev. Christine Grace, Chattanooga

Rev. Susan Gray, Nashville

Rev. Anna Golladay, Chattanooga

Rev. Steven Sherman Oak Ridge

Rev. Laura Bogle, Maryville

Rev. J. Peter van Eys, Nashville

Rev. David McIntyre, Normandy

Rev. Greg Bullard, Madison

Rev. Heather Harriss, Nashville

Rev. Jim Hughes, Nashville

Rev. Tim Bath, Murfreesboro

Rev. Cynthia Andrews-Looper, Memphis

Rev. Andrew Ward, Nashville

Rev. Dr. Patricia J. Pickett, Ashland City

Rev. Jim Sessions, Knoxville

Rev. Susan Crawford, Cordova

Rev. Karen Kastler, Hendersonville

Rev. Norman Cunningham, Crossville

Rev. Slade Kyle, Memphis

Rev. Terri Weaver, Memphis

Rev. Tommy Sheppard, Memphis

Rev. Sarah Osborne, Memphis

Rev. Buddy Stallings Memphis

Rev. Kira Schlesinger, Nashville

Rev. Eric L. Murray, Knoxville

Rev. Ginger Isom, Chattanooga

Rev. Dr. Bindy Snyder, Memphis

Rev. Jeffrey Radcliff, Kingston Springs

Rev. Wolf Cole, Savannah

Rev. Ken Carroll, Chattanooga

Rev. Michael Alford, Goodlettsville

Rev. Carolyn Dipboye, Oak Ridge

Rev. Larry Dipboye, Oak Ridge

Rev. Aimee Moiso, Nashville

Rev. James Pappas, Sewanee

Rev. Kimberly Rodrigue, Nashville

Rev. Rachel Pence

Rev. Leonard Curry, Hermitage

Rev. Jeannie M. Hunter, Madison

Rev. Debra Dickerson, Hixson

Rev. Katherine H. Smith, Nashville

Rev. Bryan Curie, Nashville

Rev. Dr. Dale P. Andrews, Nashville

Rev. Leyla K. King, Chattanooga

Rev. C. Nolan Huizenga, Nashville

Rev. John S. McClure, Nashville

Rev. Karen Neely, Norris

Rev. Taylor W. Dinsmore, Chattanooga

Rev. RJ Powell, Knoxville

Rev. April Baker, Nashville

Rev. Thomas Artist, Jr., Elizabethton

Rev. John Mark Wiggers, Knoxville

Rev. Deven Hazelwood Johnson City

Rev. Margaret K. Zeller, Kingsport

Bishop Patrick Potts, Johnson City

Rev. Shane Smith, Kingsport

Rev. Canon Dr. James F. Turrell, Sewanee

Rev. Neil K. Raman, Memphis

Rev. Cal Calhoun, Knoxville

Rev. Chris Harpster, Kingsport

Rev. Lee M. Ragsdale III, Knoxville

Rev. Isaac Blevins, Chattanooga

Chaplain Jon Coffee, Knoxville

Rev. Dr. James Hudnut-Beumler, Nashville

Rev. Jason Bennett, Murfreesboro

Rev. Joy Warren, Murfreesboro

Rev. Shirley Bowman, Murfreesboro.

Rev. Brian Merritt, Chattanooga

Rev. Sandy Prigmore Lewis, Joelton

Rev. Keith Caldwell, Nashville

Rev. Canon William A. Kolb, Memphis

Rev. Ingrid McIntyre, Nashville

Rev. Beth Lefever, Cordova

Rev. Andrew B. Ward

Rev. Jason Shelton, Nashville

Rev. Carmen Emerson

Rev. Sam Teitel, Memphis

Rev. Chris Buice, Knoxville

Rev. Carol Bodeau, Knoxville

Rev. Denise Gyauch, Nashville






What can I do THIS WEEK to resist discrimination?


There are many things you can do to resist discrimination in Tennessee this week.

*Send a message to the Senate State & Local Government Committee against SB127, the Business License to Discriminate bill,  using this form.

*Today (Monday) in Nashville at the Capitol.  Attend the We Are Watching Rally at 3:30.  RSVP and learn more at the link.  TEP is grateful to the organizers for all their support.

*Today (Monday) in Franklin at 6pm.  Attend the TEP Williamson County Committee meeting.  RSVP here.

*Tuesday in Nashville at Legislative Plaza.  Attend the Senate State and Local Government Committee hearing on SB127 wearing RED.  The event begins at 10:30.  RSVP here.

*Tuesday in Memphis.  Attend the Trans Equality Rally at 4:30.  RSVP and learn more from our friends at OUTMemphis here.

*Wednesday in Nashville at Legislative Plaza.  Attend the House Civil Justice Subcommittee hearing on HB1111, the sneakier version of the LGBT Erasure bill and wear RED.  RSVP and learn more at the link.

*Consider making a small monthly investment in our work at this link.

Guest Post: Michael Finch on why requiring photo ID to access the Legislature is a bad idea

By Michael Finch
When I heard that Senate Speaker Randy McNally was considering reviving ID checks and name tags to get into the Capitol, I felt sick to my stomach. As a transgender man, I know the stress that ID checks can cause folks in my community. And with legislation like the bathroom bill back up for debate, trans people need access to our legislators more than ever. 
ID checks can be a barrier to all kinds of folks - trans people, gender non-conforming people, undocumented people, folks who can't afford a photo ID...the list goes on and on. All of the concerns around voter ID laws apply to this situation as well.
I'm lucky enough to have my name and gender marker changed, but if I didn't, the prospect of having officers see an ID with an F and a female name on it, and then having to write that name on a name tag and wear it around the Capitol, would be enough to keep me from showing up. Being proud of your views doesn't mean you have to be comfortable showing an ID to enter the Capitol, and we should all be fighting against this attempt to chill free speech - whether it affects us directly or not.
Michael Finch is an alumnus of MTSU and active in the TEP Rutherford County Committee.

What can I do about the bathroom bill and the marriage bill?

Yesterday the anti-transgender student bathroom bill (SB771/HB888) and the TN Natural Marriage Defense Act (SB752/HB892) were filed by Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Mark Pody.  The bill filing deadline for Tennessee is today, so more could be coming.  When the bills are up in committee we will ask you to contact those committees about the bills.

Here's what we need now:

1. If you can attending Advancing Equality Days on the Hill-part 2 on March 7, RSVP here.  If you want to be a district captain who leads meetings with your legislators, contact me at .  Here is a list of current district captains leading meetings for that date.  If your senator or representative is not on the list, then we need you to help us fill out the schedule.

2. We have events coming up across the state including a Lobbying 101 in the Chattanooga area.  Get involved in one of them.  You can see the list here. We can always add more because we want advocacy to come to you and be accessible.

3. Consider making a small monthly contribution to fuel the defense of the LGBT community at this link.

Gratefully yours,

Chris Sanders
Executive Director

What can I do to resist discrimination in Tennessee?

What you can you do to resist discrimination in Tennessee?  There are lots of way to get involved with many groups across the state.  Here's a list of upcoming TEP events in East, West, and Middle Tennessee.  Get involved.  If there's not an event near you, contact us at and we might be able to schedule one.

Feb. 8.  Gallatin.  TEP Sumner County exploratory meeting.  RSVP at the link.

Feb. 14. Knoxville.  A Sweet Date: Valentine's Day Mixer.  RSVP at the link.

Feb. 19. Memphis.  TEP Gumbo Contest. RSVP at the link.

Feb. 20. Nashville.  TEP Nashville Meeting:  Planning for Action.  RSVP at the link.

Feb. 22. Collegedale. Chattanooga Area Lobbying 101. RSVP at the link.

Feb. 23. Murfreesboro. TEP Rutherford County Committee meeting.  RSVP at the link.

Feb. 27. Franklin. TEP Williamson County Committee meeting.  RSVP at the link.

March 7. Nashville. Advancing Equality Days on the Hill-Part 2. RSVP at the link.

March 9. Winchester. TEP Franklin-Coffee-Grundy-Marion Meeting. RSVP at the link.

April 4. Nashville.  Advancing Equality Days on the Hill-Part 2. RSVP at the link.

If you would like to support our work with a small monthly contribution, you can do so at this link.

Take preemptive action against 2 federal attacks on equality

It appears the attacks on equality are coming soon at the federal level.  We need you to speak out this week to defend equality before protections are taken away.  Given the speed at which the new Administration works, preemptive action now is wise.

1.  EEOC.  Word came last week that the EEOC may pull back from a job discrimination case filed by a transgender woman.  Contact the EEOC at and urge the commissioners to continue pursuing cases of LGBT job discrimination.  Sign our petition here.  If it reaches 1000 signatures, we will deliver it to the Nashville EEOC office.

2. Turning a non-discrimination executive order into a pro-discrimination executive order.  Former President Obama issued an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors.  Reports indicate that the current President is considering an executive order that would allow religious-based discrimination in many areas and it would also undo the existing contractor non-discrimination executive order.

UPDATE:  On Monday night, The New York Times is reporting that the Obama executive order protecting LGBT works will remain.  But there could still be an executive order allowing religious-based discrimination against LGBT people.  See the piece here.  So we should still contact the President.

If you are on Twitter, consider sending a Tweet like this:  @POTUS @realDonaldTrump : I oppose #LGBTQ #discrimination in executive orders.

You can use this form to contact the White House with the same message.  Note:  Because of the new "splash" page on the White House site, you may have to hunt for the contact form.  It can be found under the "PARTICIPATE" tab.

*For Tennessee residents, there is a survey on sexual orientation discrimination issues being conducted by a graduate student.  If you would like to participate, click here.
Thanks for all you do to advance equality.

Chris Sanders

Executive Director

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