This year, the 108th Tennessee General Assembly saw an increasingly polarized and partisan atmosphere at the legislature, with too few legislators friendly to civil liberties and too many well-funded right-wing organizations filing multiple bills that eroded Tennesseans’ freedom. Despite this challenging climate, however, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee was able to achieve fruitful legislative work during the session.
A sample of the bills we lobbied follows. To learn more or to sign up for alerts, please visit: http://www.aclu-tn.org/actioncenter.htm.
Civil Rights and Racial Justice. We overcame multiple bills meant to erode equal access to education and employment for women and minorities in Tennessee. Read more.
Eroding Equal Opportunity for Women and Minorities – OPPOSE – SB 0008/HB 0448 would have prevented public universities from giving preferences based on race, gender or ethnicity when recruiting students, employees or contractors. It failed to pass out of the Senate Education Committee and was taken off notice in the House Education Committee.
Limiting Equal Access to Employment for Women and Minorities – OPPOSE – SB 0114/HB 1198, which would have prohibited use of preferences including race, gender, and ethnicity when hiring for state government, passed both chambers but in different versions. A conference committee was appointed and when its members could not reach consensus on the version to be sent to the governor, the process ended.
Discrimination. We fought bills that promoted the use of religion to discriminate, including one requiring universities to support discriminatory organizations and one allowing counseling students to discriminate against clients. Read more.
Religious Discrimination Against Counseling Clients – OPPOSE – SB 0514/HB 1185 would have allowed students training to become counselors, social workers and psychologists to discriminate against clients, based on the student-trainee’s own religious beliefs. While the bill passed the Senate 22-4, widespread opposition persuaded the House Education Subcommittee to send the bill to a study committee for review.
Public University Support of Discriminatory Organizations – OPPOSE – SB 0802/HB 0534 requires state universities to recognize and fund religious student organizations that discriminate against people who do not “[profess] the faith of the group and [comport] themselves in conformity with it” by prohibiting them from joining or serving in leadership positions. The legislation passed both chambers and Governor Haslam signed it into law on April 19, 2013. Public Chapter 283 goes into effect on July 1, 2013.
Due Process. We curtailed “policing for profit,” ensuring due process and protection for property owners in Tennessee. Read more.
Restrictions on “Policing for Profit” – SUPPORT –SB 0891/HB 1078 revises asset forfeiture procedures to ensure that property owners are afforded due process when their property is seized. This legislation passed both chambers and is on its way to the governor for his signature.
Fair Treatment of Immigrants. We stopped attempts to turn our state into a hostile and unwelcoming environment for Tennesseans. Read more.
English-Only Driver Licenses – OPPOSE –SB 0900/HB 0593 would require that all written and oral examinations for driver licenses be in English and actually eliminate current existing translations. This legislation was assigned to committees but broad-based opposition persuaded sponsors not to proceed.
Free Speech. We generated national attention for a bill chilling the free speech of citizens and journalists exposing animal abuse. Read more.
The "Ag-Gag" – OPPOSE – SB 1248/HB 1191 unconstitutionally chills the free speech of citizens and journalists seeking to expose animal cruelty by requiring that anyone taking photographs and video recordings of livestock abuse turn these over to law enforcement within 48 hours or face criminal charges and fines. This legislation passed both chambers and is on its way to the governor. ACLU-TN continues to mobilize opposition, urging the governor to veto it.
LGBT Equality. We led widespread opposition to attacks on LGBT equality in our schools. Read more.
The Classroom "Protection" Act ("Don't Say Gay") – OPPOSE – SB 0234/HB 1332 would have prohibited instruction “inconsistent with natural human reproduction” in public middle and elementary schools, regardless of whether educators believed such instruction was necessary to combat bullying or for any other educational purpose. The bill could have also required schools to out LGBT students to their parents. Wide-spread opposition ensured the legislation did not move out of committees.
Privacy. We safeguarded Tennesseans’ right to privacy from being undermined by unlimited government surveillance. Read more.
Limits on Drone Durveillance – SUPPORT – SB 0796/HB 0591 enacts the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act,” placing restrictions on the use of drones by law enforcement. This legislation passed both chambers and is on its way to the governor.
Religious Freedom. We stopped a bill that would have chilled free speech for those petitioning the government to protect religious freedom. Read more.
Obstacles to Petitioning Government – OPPOSE – SB 0965/HB 0540 would create chilling and unnecessary hurdles for people who want to petition the government to protect their religious freedom. An attorney general’s opinion was requested and sponsors were persuaded to wait until it was issued to move legislation.
Reproductive Freedom. We opposed a bill that would have forced any woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. Read more.
"Politicians Playing Doctor" – OPPOSE – SB 0632/HB 0984 would require that any woman seeking an abortion undergo an ultrasound. The bills’ sponsors decided not to proceed when they realized its passage would undermine their justification for the 2014 ballot initiative (formerly SJR 127) which will attempt to amend Tennessee’s constitution to state that nothing in it protects the right to an abortion. ACLU-TN and our allies are mobilizing a statewide campaign to defeat this ballot initiative.
Students' Rights. We worked to secure all students protection from bullying. Read more.
Student Dignity Anti-Bullying Bill – SUPPORT – SB 1124/HB 0927 would have expanded Tennessee’s anti-bullying law to ensure that all students are protected from bullying based in whole or part on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, academic achievement, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or physical appearance. This bill was referred to the Tennessee Department of Education for review.
These descriptions show the bills' original, core intentions and may not reflect all amendments. Details about amendments can be found by clicking on a bill or by visiting http://www.capitol.tn.gov/.
Visit out Legislative Action Center to check out all of the bills we lobbied this year.
May 13, 2013: ACLU-TN Applauds Governor’s Veto of “Ag Gag” Legislation
May 7, 2013: 33,000 ACLU Petition Signers Ask Haslam to Veto “Ag Gag” Legislation
April 24, 2013: ACLU-TN Urges Governor to Veto "Ag Gag" Legislation; Bill Raises Serious First Amendment Concerns
April 11, 2013: ACLU-TN Applauds Senate Decision On Bill Tying Welfare to Children’s Academics
April 2, 2013: ACLU-TN Urges Governor to Veto Anti-All-Comers Legislation - Bill Raises Serious Constitutional Concerns
December 12, 2012: ACLU-TN Releases Report on Impact of Davidson County 287(g) Program; Knox and Rutherford Counties Urged to Withdraw 287(g) Applications
November 14, 2012: ACLU-TN Disappointed with Ruling Limiting The Contributor’s
Free Speech in Brentwood