The 109th Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned, and with election season upon us, it is time to reflect on the victories and defeats we have observed in 2016. Unfortunately, this year was no exception to the typical parade of anti-secular, anti-LGBT, and anti-choice bills. However, we are glad to celebrate several victories for children, trans* Tennesseeans, and for secular government.
SB1761/HB2043 - Victory! “Removes provision whereby a person who provides prayer in lieu of medical or surgical treatment could not be charged with the crime of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment solely for that reason.” Much thanks to CHILD (Children’s Health is a Legal Duty) for their hard work in seeing this measure through. Two dozen attendees of the first ever Nashville Nones Convention (NaNoCon) wrote letters to their representatives and senators asking them to protect Tennessee children by passing this bill, and SCTN delivered them in person to Legislative Plaza in March.
SB1556/HB1840 - Also known as “Hate Bill 1840”, or the counseling discrimination bill. “Declares that no person providing counseling or therapy services will be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselor or therapist.” Passed by House and Senate, signed by Gov. Haslam.
SB1912/HB2248 - Defunded the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UT Knoxville, which included the Pride Center, and defunds activities promoting usage of gender-neutral pronouns, support for Sex Week, and requirements that holiday celebrations be religiously neutral. Passed by House and Senate, without Governor’s signature.
SB2387/HB2414 - Victory! Anti-trans bathroom bill. Requires students to use bathrooms/facilities corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. Defeated in Senate Finance/Ways/Means committee.
SB1108/HB0615 - Victory! Names the Bible as the official state book. Passed by House and Senate, vetoed by Governor.
SB1170/HB1758 - Victory! Prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, despite 99% of abortions occurring before 21 weeks. Taken off notice in House Health Committee.
SB0371/HB0296 - Prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodation. Defeated in committee.
In January, we will need your help to ensure that secular voices are heard on Capitol Hill in Nashville. With your assistance, we can follow pending legislation more closely and help more of our fellow Tennesseans engage with the state legislative process. Don’t go it alone; sign up to volunteer with the Secular Coalition for Tennessee and learn how you can make real change happen in our state and federal government! If you are part of an organization that celebrates secular values, consider endorsing SCTN, and gain a voice for your group in the legislature.
Finally, visit our Secular Values Voter campaign to learn where your candidates stand on the issues. Tennessee needs your votes this November, especially at the local level, to elect candidates that value freedom, knowledge, inclusion, and equality. Vote tomorrow, August 4th, in the Tennessee primary!