Current Affairs

Tennessee lawmakers pass bill undermining rights of married same-sex couples

Nick Duffy April 28, 2017
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The Governor of Tennessee has been urged not to sign a bill that would undermine the Supreme Court ruling on equal marriage.

The Tennessee legislature this week passed HB 1111, which is aimed at undermining the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision on marriage equality.

The innocent-seeming measure would require that courts and agencies apply a literal interpretation of language in Tennessee state laws across all areas of public policy, stating that any “undefined” words be given their “natural and ordinary meaning.”.

However, LGBT activists say the bill is actually aimed directly at undermining rights for married same-sex couples, as state laws frequently refer exclusively to the rights of husbands and wives.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, if the law is signed a woman may not be able to place her wife’s name on the birth certificate of their child.
Tennessee State Capitol
In court proceedings, a married opposite-sex couple could be entitled to confidential communications, but not a married same-sex couple. The measure could even prohibit surrogacy for same-sex couples.

The law it could also have consequences beyond the LGBTQ community. It would impact state constitutional protections for women by prohibiting state courts from reading the term “man” to also include “woman.”

The Tennessee law requiring no “man’s” services or property be taken without consent or compensation, for example, could suddenly be interpreted to exclude women from these same protections.

After passing the state Senate, the bill now heads to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk.

HRC has been working in partnership with the Tennessee Equality Project, ACLU of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition in working to stop this legislation from becoming law.

HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow: “In a shameful haste to undermine marriage equality, the Tennessee State Legislature is opening a Pandora’s box of harmful consequences that could impact more than just the LGBTQ community.

“This measure would no doubt result in multiple, expensive legal challenges, forcing the state to divert crucial resources that need to be focused on other truly important issues. Governor Bill Haslam must protect the state from the fallout and veto this bill.”

Sarah Kate Ellis of GLAAD said: “With the entire nation watching, Gov. Haslam should veto this bill which is not only bad for business, but would set a dangerous precedent that could place the well-being of LGBTQ Tennesseans in jeopardy.”

Related topics: bill, Gay, Law, LGBT, Tennessee, US

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