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Final 2021 Tennessee Legislative Wrap-Up

Advocacy Chamber News Release

I have not wanted to write this email, for many reasons. One of the big ones is I don’t like to lose, and there is no other way to put it, we lost, big. The other reason is we really did not know where things would end until it was officially over. I truly believed we had a shot at stopping some of this discrimination. 

Tuesday afternoon Governor Lee signed the 5th anti-LGBT discriminatory bill into law, putting us ahead of any other state this year or in years past, that has advanced this many discriminatory pieces of legislation. Not only are we on record with the most, but also have some of the worst. We are the first state to pass a “bathroom” bill since North Carolina infamously passed one in 2016, and we passed TWO this year. The second of these - “the business bathroom bill” - assigns a Class B misdemeanor on any business that has inclusive bathroom policies and does not put up a sign stating that on their business. This signage will encourage harassment of patrons and employees using the restroom. I am sure you have and will continue to see national press coverage of this bill, unfortunately.  

I did not think this legislative session was going to be as brutal on the LGBT community as it was. If you would have told me that we would end with FIVE anti-LGBT discriminatory bills signed into law, I would not have believed it. I would not have believed that in the midst of recovery from COVID-19, state leaders would be focused on discrimination instead of helping small businesses and children's education. I would not have believed that with a new presidential administration signaling broader readings of Title VI and IX, the new Supreme Court ruling on the Bostock case, and lower courts already striking down similar discriminatory legislation, that legislators would still move ahead with bills that will harm Tennesseans, cost the state money to defend, and ruin our reputation. 

This session has been worse for LGBT people than any of us could have imagined. 

We used to talk about how Tennessee was leading the nation in business attraction and economic growth, and we were proud of that. We are ashamed and saddened by what this state will be known for now. We will carefully monitor any economic fallout from this awful slate of bills, and collect the data to share in the future, to continue to show how this legislation harms the economy. But we also know there will be plenty of economic harms that will never be reported on: the talented workers who decide to put down roots elsewhere, the lost productivity when parents are consumed with worry about their transgender kids, the tourism events that simply get booked elsewhere. 

And beyond the economic harms we know will follow, the human costs of this legislation will be incalculable. I know that many of you are processing these losses through the lens of a fellow Tennessean who is heartbroken that our neighbors will experience discrimination and harm simply because of who they are.  

I am encouraged that this year, even amidst so many other competing priorities, that the business community was louder than ever before, urging our state’s leadership to focus on rebuilding our economy and to move beyond the politics of division. It is only a forward-looking Tennessee that will continue to attract the world’s best talent, the vibrant tourism and entertainment industries that help make this state so special, and that help sustain big and small communities alike. These discriminatory laws do nothing but divide and harm our state, its reputation, and most of all its already vulnerable citizens. 

The lawmakers that pushed this legislation claim to be pro-business. We will make sure businesses, large and small and all over the state, know that business opposition to these bills was strong and sustained - and that it was ignored.

We want to say thanks as we look back over the session. Thank you to the record number of corporations and small businesses who signed the open letter; your names and your public statements had a huge impact. Thank you to the individuals and businesses that reached out and spoke directly with legislators, asking them to oppose these bills. Thank you to the equality coalition partners that worked daily to stop the legislation: Tennessee Equality Project, GLSEN, PFLAG, HRC, Freedom for All Americans, and the ACLU. All of them brought in expertise and resources to and we are proud to work with you. 

No one can say that we did not try. We left nothing on the table at the end of this and we should feel proud of that work. You can see by the list below we offered updates each week as the session progressed, updating everyone on the advancement of each bill, direct contact campaigns and actions to take, press coverage from that week on the legislation, and what to expect and how to take action for the week ahead. 
Past Advocacy Alerts - 

We know these reports were valuable to many of you to stay on top of this issue and know many of you used them to take action. This is what we do here at the LGBT Chamber when it comes to advocacy. We will continue to provide these services to our members, to the open letter signers, and to everyone else we work with. This year has strengthened the collaboration and work that we do together to stop these bills. We will continue to refine the process and make it better, and we will be back next year to continue this work. 

We can’t do this without support. Being a member is the best way you can support us. If you are a member, thank you, and please consider upgrading your membership. If you are not a member, we need you to join us officially in this work. 

Our work in advocacy has grown each year at the state level. It will only continue to do so and it will be even stronger next year. As you will see below, a number of discriminatory bills were delayed to 2022, so we have a lot of work ahead of us. We will keep you updated on the progress and look forward to working with you to make Tennessee open and welcoming once again. 


News Articles to know about - 

Potential Fallout: 

Legislative Overview – Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce bill tracklist: 

112th General Assembly – First Session 

Final- Bill Status Report


SB 228/HB 3 (Hensley/Cepicky): “Anti-trans student-athlete bill”

A bill to require that a student's gender for purposes of participation in a public middle school or high school interscholastic athletic activity or event be determined by the student's sex at the time of the student's birth, as indicated on the student's original birth certificate. 

Status: Senate Passed 03/01/21; House Passed 03/22/21; Signed by the Governor 3/26/21. 

SB 1229/HB 529 (Rose/Moody): “Opt-Out of being taught LGBT sex-ed”

A bill to require an LEA or public charter school to notify the parent or guardian of each student prior to beginning instruction of a sexual orientation curriculum or gender identity curriculum, regardless of whether the curriculum is offered as part of a family life program, sex education program, or other program. Allows a parent or guardian to excuse the student from a sexual orientation or gender identity curriculum. 

Status: Senate passed 04/05/21; House passed 04/14/21. Signed by Governor 5/3/21.

SB 1367/HB 1233 (Bell/Zachary): “Bathroom Bill 2.0”

A bill to require public schools to provide a reasonable accommodation to a person who is unwilling or unable to use a multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility designated for the person’s sex located within a public school building or multi-occupancy sleeping quarters while attending a public school-sponsored activity. “Reasonable accommodation” is defined as including but not limited to access to a single-occupancy restroom or changing facility. “Sex” is a person's biological sex determined at the time of birth. Establishes that a person who is denied reasonable accommodation has a private right of action against the public school. 

Status: Senate Passed 04/21/21, House Passed 04/26/21. Signed by Governor 5/14/21.

SB 1224/HB 1182 (Rose/Rudd): “Bathroom Signage for Business” 

As amended, a bill to require entities that operate a building or facility open to the general public that allow a member of either biological sex to use any public restroom post notice of the policy at the entrances to the restrooms. Establishes regulations for the required signage. 

Status: House passed 03/29/21, Senate passed 4/29/21. Signed by Governor 5/17/21.

SB 126/HB 1027 (Haile/Kumar): “Trans-Youth Hormone Ban”

As amended, a bill to prohibit sexual identity change hormone therapy for prepubescent minors, and establish a commission to consider uniform standards for endocrine treatment for minors who are not prepubescent. 

Status: Senate passed 04/08/21; House Passed 05/03/21, Signed by Governor 5/18/21. 


SB 657/HB 578 (Bowling/Ragan): “Transgender-youth Healthcare Ban” 

A bill to prohibit facilitating sexual identity change therapy to a minor who has not entered puberty, and to prohibit sexual identity change therapy to minors who have entered puberty unless a parent or guardian has written recommendations for the therapy from at least three physicians. Violations are treated as child abuse. 

Status: Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee; House Health Committee deferred to Second Calendar of 2022. 

SB 193/HB 372 (Bowling/Casada): “Diversity Training Opt-Out”

A bill to prohibit government entities from requiring employees to participate in a training, seminar, or continuing education if they object based on their morals, ethics, values, or religious beliefs. 

Status: Referred to Senate State and Local Government Committee (CLOSED); Taken off notice in House Public Service Subcommittee 03/17/21. 

SB 1216/HB 800 (Niceley/Griffey): “LGBT in Textbook Ban”

A bill to prohibit the use of textbooks or instructional materials that promote LGBTQ issues or lifestyles. 

Status: Referred to Senate Education Committee (CLOSED); House Education Instruction Committee passed 04/07/21, sent to House Finance Subcommittee. NO ACTION 

SB 1238/HB 1177 (Pody/J Sexton): “Anti-Trans Lockerroom Bill”

A bill to create an expectation of privacy from members of the opposite sex for a person in a single-sex restroom or locker room. Sex is defined as that listed on a person’s birth certificate. Violations are misdemeanors. 

Status: Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee; Referred to House Criminal Justice Subcommittee (CLOSED). 

SB 562/HB 233 (Bowling/Leatherwood): “Same-sex marriage ban”

A bill to require the Attorney General to defend local officials and political subdivisions who refuse to issue marriage licenses that violate the state constitution. 

Status: Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee; Referred to House Children & Family Affairs Subcommittee (CLOSED). 


SB 659/HB 1535 (Bowling/Weaver): 

A bill to prohibit teachers from using supplemental materials that are not approved by the state board of education. Defines "supplemental materials" to mean a lesson plan, reading material, student worksheet, or instructional guide that a teacher uses to instruct a student on the academic standards of this state, and the lesson plan, student worksheet, or instructional guide is not created by the teacher. Establishes a review and approval process for supplemental materials sent to the state board by teachers, including notice of the review to the public and allowing the public to comment on the materials. 

Status: Senate Education Committee deferred to 2022; House Education Instruction Committee passed 04/07/21, sent to House Calendar & Rules Committee. 


SB 856/HB 576 (Bowling/Ragan): 

A bill to require the Department of Education to promulgate rules regulating how the office for civil rights ensures compliance with Title VI and Title IX, and assists programs receiving funds under Title VI and Title IX. 

Status: Assigned to General Subcommittee in Senate 03/19/21; Failed in House Higher Education Subcommittee 03/09/21.

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