FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2017
CONTACT: Lindsay Kee, 615-320-7142
NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam urging him to veto SB 1085/HB 1111, a measure widely dubbed the “LGBT Erasure” bill.
“We urge Governor Haslam to veto this legislation and send the clear message that LGBT Tennesseans and their families deserve the same rights and protections as others,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. “We are hopeful that the governor will stand on the right side of history If not, we stand ready to challenge any unconstitutional, discriminatory practices caused by this legislation.”
SB 1085/HB 1111 would require that any undefined words in Tennessee law “be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language.” In other words, under this bill, terms like “husband,” “wife,” mother” and “father” could only be interpreted as gender-specific under the law.
ACLU-TN’s letter explains that this legislation “invites confusion into the application and implementation of a wide range of laws, including those affecting education, family relationships, health care and taxes.”
According to the letter, this measure also contradicts another part of Tennessee code that explicitly states that where gendered terms are used, they should be considered inclusive of all genders or neutral, unless otherwise explicitly written into that part of the law. The letter states that this language has been present in Tennessee law for over one hundred years and it has not created problems so far.
The Tennessee attorney general recently issued an opinion stating that SB 1085/HB 1111 could force some Tennessee laws to conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell, which held that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.
In the letter sent today, Weinberg urges Governor Haslam to veto SB 1085/HB 1111 because it would “send a clear message that Tennessee is committed to advancing freedom and fairness and ensuring equality and justice for all residents.”
A copy of ACLU-TN’s letter can be found at http://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/SB1085-HB1111ACLU-TNVetoLetter.pdf.