Protecting LGBTQIA+ community against Tennessee ‘Slate of Hate’

‘I urge you to stay committed to protecting our LBGTQA community,’ Clarksville Councilmember Ashlee Evans said during a recent council meeting.

At the close of new business in the April 1 regular session, Clarksville Councilmember Ashlee Evans put forth an item of discussion regarding Mayors Against LGBTQIA+ Discrimination.

The Mayors Against LGBTQ Discrimination Coalition, founded in 2016, invites mayors to join in support of protections at the local level and advocates for national policies in support of inclusive nondiscrimination.

In a previous council executive session, Evans said she’s concerned about some of the bills at the state level that are “blatantly discriminatory against the LGBTQ population.”

Evans read a statement from the coalition’s website.

“Mayors Against LGBTQ Discrimination is a bipartisan coalition of municipal leaders dedicated to securing inclusive nondiscrimination protections for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, at all levels of government. We recognize the special role mayors play in protecting the rights and safety of residents and in advancing policies that move our communities and our country forward,” the website said.

Evans said there are 430 coalition members in all 50 states.

“Only 430 mayors have committed to protecting their LGBTQ communities,” Evans said.

Evans then read the names and descriptions of bills under consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly she found to be discriminatory.

“There’s HB0300, the transgender sports ban that was already passed,” Evans said.

The House bill requires 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.

“HB0800 is the banning of LGBTQ content from public school curriculum,” Evans said. “HB0529 requires schools to opt out of sexual orientation-gender identity curriculum.”

Evans listed other bills she felt were discriminatory that deal with anti-inclusive transgender restrooms signs; the ability to opt out of diversity and inclusive workplace trainings; a bill she said criminalizes gender-affirming care for transgender youth; and a caption bill that will carry an amendment that regulates gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

“I urge you to stay committed to protecting our LBGTQIA community,” Evans said.

Councilmember Karen Reynolds said when her son came out and said he was gay 15 years ago, she told him she loved him, but it was not safe to come out.

“My son will never come back to Tennessee,” Reynolds said. “He is the son of two parents who, together, have over 80 years of service to our nation.”

Reynolds said Tennessee continually attacks “our children.”

According to Reynolds, the bills to which Evans referenced are part of a Tennessee “slate of hate” that include anti-LGBTQ legislation in the state’s legislature.

“This isn’t all about the LGBTQIA,” Reynolds said. “If you read some of these slate of hate bills, they don’t specifically say, ‘just gay.’ They say they can opt out of diversity training. That means racial. That means sexual orientation, but it also means race discrimination and sex discrimination. They are setting up agendas that will be much more widespread.”

Other than Reynolds’ and Evans’ comments, the only other support provided was from Councilmember Wanda Allen, who applauded the discussion offered by Reynolds and Evans.

“At some point in time, we can all be a minority,” Allen said. “Everyone is going to be discriminated against one day.”

She encouraged the councilmembers to stick together to fight discrimination.

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