NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The state legislature passed an avalanche of anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year, leading to frustration from the community it affects.
“One of the biggest emotions that I have had to deal with and a lot of other folks have had to deal with is unsurmountable fear,” said Tennessee Equality Project’s Jace Wilder.
Gov. Bill Lee just signed into law a bill saying teachers are ‘not required to use a student’s preferred pronoun when referring to the student if the preferred pronoun is not consistent with the student’s biological sex.’
“Nothing in this bill would give a teacher the right to bully or harass any child,” Rep. Mark Cochran (R-Englewood) said during session. “I have enough faith in our school teachers to know that would not happen.”
Cochran, the bill’s sponsor, implied the bill is just a piece of free speech legislation.
“The right of freedom of thought protected by the First Amendment against state action includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all,” Cochran said.
But critics of the law say it borders on speech that causes significant harm and could set up yet another lawsuit Tennessee might face on an anti-LGBTQ+ bill it passed this session.
“For the first time in my life, I’ve had to have conversations with people that care about me, about my safety plan for if I need to leave the state,” Wilder said. “That’s not a conversation that anyone in any state should be having in this country, ever.”
The new law is part of a larger shift the community is seeing around the country, as other states–like Florida–have passed similar legislation.
“If we follow back to even last session, the exact same bills were proposed and they were labeled by the people who proposed these laws this year as too extreme only last year,” Wilder said.