Compared to other states like Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, Florida, and many others, Tennessee is getting something of a breather this year. Can that really be true? And if so, why?
It seems to be true. The major anti-equality bill we are facing is the Counseling Discrimination bill. We're not facing bills attacking transgender people in restrooms. The RFRA/Turn the Gays Away bill is not back. Don't Say Gay and License to Bully...no appearance. So we have a real chance to focus on fighting the Counseling Discrimination bill. And fight it we must! Remember that in 2013 it passed the full Senate. It could happen again and reignite momentum against LGBT people at the Legislature.
Why is it true? Let's break down the possible reasons. And it's probably a combination of all of them.
- Waiting. The far Right might be waiting until the Supreme Court rules on marriage to unleash bills or they could be waiting to amend bills this session.
- Already Tried. Unfortunately for those of us in Tennessee, we've already seen almost every negative bill you could imagine. We've already faced down the Police the Potty bill for transgender people. We fought Don't Say Gay four sessions. License to Bully was a few years ago. Turn the Gays Away / RFRA--so last year.
- Other Priorities. The debates this year in Tennessee are about Medicaid expansion, educational issues like Common Core and vouchers, and taxes.
- Other Targets. Maybe the Legislature is slowly leaving behind (for the time) its LGBT obsession, or at least putting it on the shelf, while it turns to reproductive health attacks, religious minorities, and so on. Of course, all these issues affect LGBT people!
- Once Bitten, Twice Shy. When the majority caucus of the State Senate launched the Turn the Gays Away /RFRA bill with an official press release last year, I can honestly say I was never more afraid. But we fought back with biting media showing the impact in East, West, and Middle Tennessee, helped bring to bear an impressive group of business associations against the bill, and generated hundreds of phone calls to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which made an impression. Legislators may have decided they needed a break.
Whatever the reasons, I don't expect the partial reprieve to last. So what do you do while anti-equality forces rest? You prepare. How?
- Phone Calls. Be ready to make those phone calls when the Counseling Discrimination bill moves.
- Meet. We're focusing heavily on conversations about the bill and discrimination during Advancing Equality Day on the Hill on Tuesday. And we have great coverage of the Legislature this time!
- Organize Statewide. Our regional committees in every part of the state are running stronger than ever. We're growing in places where there had been a decline. As momentum toward marriage equality builds, more people are getting involved across the state.
- The Message. We take more media calls, write more op-eds, and pitch more stories than any other LGBT organization in the state. We're going to shape the conversation while the opposition merely reacts to marriage and other national developments.
- Fuel the Fight. We've got a bunch of issues that need in work in Tennessee--from hate violence to bullying in schools to job discrimination. When you contribute a little each month, you keep us going for the battles ahead.