Tennessee bills attempt to take rights away from the LGBTQ+ community


Iris Libson

Gay Marriage with jail bars in front of men.

Simon Tessmer-Tuck, Staff Writer

The Tennessee House of Representatives has passed three bills that will take rights away from the LGBTQ+ community. HB 30 will require drag artists to obtain a permit before performing, HB 878 will allow government employees who solemnize marriage the right to refuse couples based on religious beliefs, and another bill will make it illegal for minors to get gender-affirming care. These bills are currently under consideration in the Tennessee Senate but are expected to pass. 

The bills are opposed by many, including the Tennessee Equality Project, an organization that fights for sexual orientation and transgender rights in Tennessee. “From same-sex couples to transgender youth, to drag artists these bills are not about protecting children and they are not about religious freedom. They are about stripping away the basic human rights from LGBTQ+ people,” Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders said in a statement released immediately after the bills passed the House in early March. 

According to Sanders, house members have ignored constituents in their offices, phone calls, and compelling committee testimony. “It is time they became the people’s House again,” Sanders said.

Eli Engstrom, a gender-fluid student at Edina High School, believes the point of these bills is not what is actually written down. “The goal is not to ban being trans in public, it’s to inundate [American legislature] systems with things that make it more and more okay to harass trans people,” Engstrom said. She believes that the more legislators claim being transgender is bad the more it will become true. 

Tennessee’s bills will not directly affect Minnesota in any way; however, Engstrom fears that there will be effects nationwide. “People in Minnesota are still proposing bills like this and that is part of the problem in safe states like ours. People who are proposing these bills over and over again are gumming up our system,” Engstrom said. 

HB 878 will have secondary effects in Minnesota according to junior Alora Schmidt, a leader of Edina GSA. “With this bill passing, it’s going to start opening up more [ways to harm the LGBTQ+ community]. I think that is going to have a big impact [in Minnesota],” Schmidt said. “I feel like there is going to be more violence and discrimination against trans people and other people in the [LGBTQ+] community.”

Minors in Tennessee no longer have access to gender-affirming care under any circumstance. Engstrom believes this is a mistake and will cost lives. “I think we are going to see [an increase] of suicide nationally. We’ll see a lot more uptake in teen suicide, especially in centers where these bills are being proposed, like Tennessee. That’s how it’s gonna be because that’s what gender-affirming care is: suicide prevention,” Engstrom said.

This piece was originally published in Zephyrus’ print edition on April 20.