Tennessee Law About “Natural, Ordinary” Meaning Of Words Puts LGBT People At Risk

A new bill may discriminate against those using nonbinary or gender-neutral terms.

Is it semantics or simple bigotry?

The Tennessee Senate voted 23-6 earlier this week to approve a bill that civil rights advocates worry would allow state judges to discriminate against the LGBT community, LGBTQ Nation reports.

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If signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Bill 1085, which passed last month as House Bill 1111, would require any undefined word in state law to be interpreted as having “natural and ordinary meaning,” which critics interpret as a sneaky attempt to deny rights to same-sex couples and transgender people using nonbinary or gender-neutral terminology.

GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis says that the bill would “set a dangerous precedent that could place the well-being of LGBTQ Tennesseans in jeopardy.”

Bill Haslam
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The legislation has been pushed by the anti-gay Family Action Council of Tennessee, but Republican Sen. John Stevens insists that his bill isn’t aimed at LBGT people. He adds that he has “no idea” if the bill could infringe on same-sex marriage or adoption rights.

Another proposed bill more explicitly specified the words “husband,” “wife,” “mother,” and “father” as having “natural and ordinary meanings” based on a gender binary, but that bill gained no traction.

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