NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee is advancing a bill to base a person’s sex on their anatomy at birth.
“It sends a message that LGBTQ Tennesseans are not wanted,” Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) Communications Director Brian Sullivan said. “But nothing could be further from the truth because we have a large, thriving community.”
Aside from the social concerns, There’s a lot of money at stake, too.
Tennessee’s Joint Fiscal Review Committee estimates the state is risking over $2 billion if the bill becomes law.
The federal Department of Education states the bill could ‘create legal risk and jeopardize federal funding awards from programs like Title 1, Perkin and IDEA.’
Furthermore, the federal government could deny $750 million to the Tennessee Department of Health if it finds the law to be discriminatory and ‘if the state is found out of compliance with federal requirements.’
“Obviously, I would disagree with that because recall that the term ‘sex’ is already used repeatedly in the code,” Rep. Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood) said. “All that this particular bill does is to provide clarity as to what prior General Assemblies meant.”
He filed the bill and said he believed there to be legal precedent for the bill’s existence.
“We already have the term in the code. Our General Assembly has already meant what it has meant by use of the term in the code,” Bulso said. “The General Assembly, when it has used the term ‘sex,’ has always meant to refer to one’s biological sex.”
While in a Civil Justice Committee last week, Bulso said he didn’t care what the cost of the bill would be when asked by Rep. Torrey Harris (D-Memphis), the only openly gay legislator in the General Assembly.
“In my view, this body should do what’s right morally and ethically, regardless of the cost,” Bulso said. “I don’t care what it costs, Mr. Harris — excuse me, Representative Harris — to do what’s right.”
Equality groups – like the TEP – have pushed back on the bill, saying not only is it harmful to the LGBTQ+ community but also financially dangerous.
“Not just for Tennesseans, but for our reputation in the United States,” Sullivan said. “If the United States came back and saw it as discriminatory or rightly saw it as unconstitutional or a burden to taxpayers.”
A House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee placed the bill behind the budget, which essentially means it can’t be considered until the General Assembly passes the budget.
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Just this year alone, the ACLU shows it’s tracking 26 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Tennessee.