Category Archives: sexual orientation

D.C. mayor bans publicly funded travel to TN

Washington, D.C., has become the second city to ban publicly funded travel to Tennessee over the state’s controversial new law allowing mental health counselors to deny services to gay, lesbian and transgender clients and others.

Further from Michael Collins:

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s order, issued May 11 and published Friday in the city’s official legal bulletin, bars all city-funded travel to the Volunteer State on the grounds that the law could be “particularly harmful” to the LGBT community.

Official travel to Tennessee is prohibited “to ensure a constant voice in policy and practice in the District of Columbia in favor of equal treatment for all,” the order says.

The ban will remain in effect until the Tennessee law is “permanently enjoined, repealed or amended.”

Washington’s ban is the latest repercussion for Tennessee over its new law, which Gov. Bill Haslam signed late last month. The law allows licensed counselors and therapists to deny service to counselors whose “goals, outcomes or behaviors” conflict with the counselor’s “sincerely held principles” — a measure the American Counseling Association had denounced as a “hate bill” against gay and transgender people.

…Last week, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney banned all publicly funded, non-essential travel to Tennessee, saying the law “infringes on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.” Earlier this month, the American Counseling Association canceled its annual conference, which was set to be held in Nashville next year, in protest of the new law.

Nashville mayor appoints first TN transgender person to government board

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville Mayor Megan Barry appointed a transgender woman to the Metro Human Relations Commission — an apparent first for Tennessee.

The Nashville’s Metro Council on Tuesday confirmed all 20 of Barry’s board nominations, including voting unanimously to appoint Dr. Marisa Richmond to the Metro Human Relations Commission, media outlets reported.

According to the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, Richmond is the first transgender person in the state’s history to be named to a local government board or commission.

Richmond is a Nashville resident, a professor in the history department at Middle Tennessee State University and former president of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition.

“Marisa Richmond is a dedicated community leader who is a champion for equality and has been at the forefront of the discussion over transgender rights in Nashville and Tennessee,” Barry, a Democrat, said in a statement. “She will be a strong voice on the Metro Human Relations Commission for making sure Nashville remains a warm and welcoming city for all.”

The 17-member commission oversees the human relations department, which is tasked with resolving discrimination complaints and carrying out educational programs in a number of areas.

“I was thrilled and I was honored,” Richmond said of the distinction. “I think it’s the right step in the right direction for Nashville. Especially in contrast to what the state is doing — Nashville and the rest of the country is moving forward even as the state is refusing to. I think it’s a real positive development for Nashville.”

ACLU files civil rights complaint against transgender bathroom policy

News release from American Civil Liberties Union-Tennessee
NASHVILLE — The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights stating that Sumner County Schools’ policy prohibiting transgender students from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity violates the requirements of federal anti-discrimination law and the United States Constitution. The complaint was filed on behalf of a transgender high school freshman and her parents.

“No student should have to endure the stigma and marginalization of being segregated from the rest of the student body,” said ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Abby R. Rubenfeld of the Rubenfeld Law Office, PC. “These kinds of blanket bans prevent transgender students from being treated fairly and equally at school. This policy is not only misguided, it’s a direct violation of Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Sumner County public high school student and her parents using pseudonyms, in order to avoid further stigmatization and bullying of the student because of the school district policy. The complaint seeks the Department of Education’s assistance in enforcing federal law regarding the treatment of transgender students in public schools. Continue reading

Haslam: No need for lawsuit or special session on bathrooms

Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday he doesn’t see any need for either a special legislative session or a lawsuit against the federal government over the transgender student restroom issue, reports Richard Locker.

Despite the furor among Republican lawmakers and conservative interest groups, “there’s nothing new,” the governor said, in the guidance President Barack Obama’s administration gave schools, colleges and universities last week over allowing transgender students to use the restrooms of their gender identity and that it was not an enforcement action.

…”I’m not certain what the strategy around the special session would be,” Haslam told reporters after launching a “Go Build Tennessee” initiative encouraging high school students to consider the building trades as careers. “I’ve said that I think the president is overreaching in this and they (administration officials) said themselves that there’s nothing new about what they’re proposing and that this is not a new law and that it’s not about enforcement.

“Our direction to our schools and school systems is going to be to continue doing what you’re doing. I honestly believe that this is something that’s better handled at the local school level. They know the students involved. They know the environment and culture of their schools and they quite frankly have been handling this in an admirable way and I think that’s how we should continue handling it.”

Asked whether he opposes a special session, he said, “Obviously that’s their call. If they get two-thirds of both bodies, they get to decide to do that. I would question what’s the strategy; what’s the purpose of having a special session?”

Haslam similarly questioned demands for some form of legal challenge against the federal government.

Asked if the state should go to court over the issue, he said: “At this point in time, I don’t think so because our schools are continuing to do what they’ve always done. You should go to court if somebody comes in and says you can’t do what you’re doing. To this point in time, our schools are doing what they did last month and last year, and our advice to them is to continue doing what you’re doing in your local schools.

“Again, I’m not sure what we go to court about at this point. I would keep emphasizing that as long as our schools get to do what they think is the right thing to do, I think we’re exactly where we were before the president” acted.

But Haslam reiterated a point he made Monday, questioning the guidance letter issued by the U.S. departments of education and justice that schools, colleges and universities should accommodate transgender students. “I do think it’s worth noting that the president is — and I understand he is in his last days — but he’s trying to do a lot of things by guidelines that are really Congress’s responsibilities.”

Casada suggests special legislative session on transgender bathrooms

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada has raised the possibility of a special legislative session to consider taking action against President Obama’s transgender bathroom directive, reports The Tennessean. Casada sent a survey to fellow House Republicans Tuesday asking whether they would favor the idea.

Casada, R-Franklin, said the directive, announced by the Obama administration on Friday, concerned him because he believes it is unconstitutional.

“I want our school systems to know that they can tell the (American Civil Liberties Union), who would bring lawsuits, or the Department of Justice that the state of Tennessee is going to stand with them,” he said, pointing out that he was not speaking on behalf of the Republican caucus.

Two hours after Casada sent out the survey, he said, 16 out of the 22 respondents were supportive of holding a special session. Five members were “a flat no” and one was undecided, he said.

It would take two-thirds of members in both chambers — 66 in the House and 22 in the Senate — to call for a special session. Republicans hold 73 seats in the House and 28 in the Senate.

Adam Kleinheider, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, said he is not aware of any effort in the Senate to survey members about the prospect of a special session, which Casada admitted would be unnecessary if Slatery publicly expressed plans to oppose the directive.

…Also on Tuesday, Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, began circulating an online petition asking Tennesseans to sign onto a letter she plans to send to Haslam on the issue.

Another letter on Obama’s bathroom directive from TN GOP legislators

A day a group of Republican state senators sent a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam urging action against an Obama administration directive on transgender bathrooms, a group of 33 Republican state lawmakers — representatives as well as senators — have sent a similar missive to Attorney General Herbert Slatery. It calls on Slatery to “challenge the legal authority” of the federal government to enforce its directive.

Further, from The Tennessean:

State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, wrote the new letter and circulated it to her colleagues for signatures. In the letter, she accuses the Obama administration of “mobocracy” and “bullying” to “accommodate students with gender identify disorder at the expense of the mentally healthy enrollment.”

Bowling is up for re-election this year, with one opponent in the August Republican primary and two Democrats running for their party’s nomination in the 16th state senate district, which includes Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Sequatchie, Van Buren and Warren counties in southeastern Middle Tennessee.

The letter was signed by her and 12 of her Republican colleagues in the Senate and 20 Republicans in the House of Representatives — a minority of the GOP’s 28 state senators and 73 state representatives.

…”Our Office is just as concerned with the joint guidance letter issued by the Education Department and the DOJ as the Governor and many state legislators are. It is the most recent, and all too familiar, example of federal agencies (not Congress) telling states and now universities and local education boards what to do,” Slatery’s office said in a statement.

“We are monitoring the predictable litigation that has resulted. To the extent that our Office can assist and advance the best interests of our State, we will do so.”

Text of the letter available by clicking on this link: Letter to AG Slatery

Most GOP senators seek lawsuit over transgender bathrooms

Twenty-six state senators are calling on Gov. Bill Haslam to join North Carolina’s lawsuit against the federal government over the ongoing battle over transgender students’ access to restrooms, according to The Tennessean.

The group of lawmakers, which included every Republican in the Senate except Sens. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, sent a letter to Haslam on Monday.

“Serving with you on behalf of our citizens, who elected us to dutifully represent our Tennessee values and principles, we write to you in support of our State joining our neighbors, in legal action if necessary opposing the Obama administration’s “decree” which denies the privacy rights of more than 99 percent of Tennesseans,” they wrote.

…Gov. Bill Haslam stopped short of the rhetoric directed at the Obama administration by some top officials in other states but did call the directive a “heavy-handed approach.” (Previous post HERE.)

In their letter, the Tennessee senators said the Obama administration “must not only be stopped, but exposed as a reckless post-constitutional approach to our government.”

Citing statistics from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which indicated that the state had 2,732 cases of rape, forcible sodomy and sexual assault in 2015, the lawmakers said the issue ultimately came down to public safety.

“While a microscopic group of individuals demand accommodation, the opportunism that is created for criminal predators (not within the said group receiving preference) to access their unwilling prey — women and children — is a certain consequence. The deviancy driving rapists and pedophiles has been dismissed and would most certainly impact and endanger a much larger segment of the public in an irrational fear of media criticism and opposition by a radical political activist subgroup,” the letter says.

“We take this opportunity to share our view that the new guidance from the Department of Education and the President be of no legal force nor effect. We also request that you will do nothing to give it effect except in accordance with the law under the state and federal constitutions, which we are sworn to uphold,” they concluded.

News releases from Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Sen. Mark Green, both considering runs for governor in 2018, are below, along with similar statements from Sen. Doug Overbey and congressional candidate Joe Carr. Continue reading

Haslam: Courts will resolve Obama’s ‘heavy-handed’ bathroom directive

More than a week after several Tennessee Republicans bashed President Obama’s directive on transgender bathrooms (previous post HERE), Gov. Bil Haslam has joined in a perhaps somewhat milder manner in a statement distributed to media on Monday.

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued the following statement on the guidance to schools released by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education:

“The White House itself has said what they issued last week is not an enforcement action and does not make any additional requirements under the law. Congress has the authority to write the law, not the executive branch, and we disagree with the heavy-handed approach the Obama administration is taking. Decisions on sensitive issues such as these should continue to be made at the local level based on the unique needs of students, families, schools and districts while working closely with the local school board counsel, understanding that this is an emerging area of law that will ultimately be settled by the courts.”

TN Republicans join in bashing Obama bathroom directive

Some Tennessee Republican politicians have joined other members of the party in bashing a directive from the Obama administration that calls on schools to allow use of bathrooms based on an individual’s “gender identity.”

Republican state Rep. Susan Lynn of Wilson County, who unsuccessfully sponsored a bill in the legislature this year mandating use of school bathrooms based on the gender designated on birth certificates, was focus of a Tennessean story after a Facebook post on the subject. Excerpt:

“Transgenderism is a mental disorder called gender identity disorder — no one should be forced to entertain another’s mental disorder and it is not healthy for the individual with the disorder,” Lynn said in a list of responses to the federal directive.

“We can and we will legistativly (sic) protect children from hormone abuse — a directive has no impact on that issue only the Orwellian redefinition of sex would do that.”

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander news release:
WASHINGTON, May 13 – Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the Department of Education’s guidance to local school districts regarding transgender student’s use of public bathrooms:

“This is the kind of issue that parents, school boards, communities, students and teachers should be allowed to work out in a practical way with a maximum amount of respect for the individual rights of all students. Insofar as the federal government goes, it’s up to Congress to write the law, not the executive departments. And guidance issued by the departments does not amount to federal law and should not be treated as such.” Continue reading

Religious counseling law could lead to lawsuit

The national group that recently canceled a Nashville convention as a result of a new state law that allows counselors to deny service to clients is considering squaring off against Tennessee in court, reports The Tennessean.

“I’m not an attorney, but I will tell you that we will be looking at whether or not there is a possible legal action to take against the state given this law being enacted,” American Counseling Association CEO Richard Yep told The Tennessean this week.

Yep said any potential legal action against the state could even expand beyond the ACA.

“There could be a challenge from the federal government based on the fact that the state obviously does receive federal funds through Medicare. Whether or not the Department of Justice wants to get involved because of the denial of services, we will see,” he said.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against North Carolina, which enacted a law that bans transgender people from using bathrooms that don’t match with their sex at birth. The Justice Department’s civil rights office said the law violates civil rights.
The state also has sued the federal government in an effort to keep the controversial law.

…Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, who serves as chairman of the House Health Committee, which discussed the measure, brushed aside concerns that the state could face action from the federal government, saying, “I figured there could be legal action, but at the end of the day there is no refusal of service in this bill.”

Sexton said he worried about Yep misrepresenting the fact that the ACA was not consulted as the bill made its way through the legislative process. He pointed out that the ACA hired a lobbyist who met with lawmakers about the legislation.

In an interview with The Tennessean earlier this week, Yep said no one in the legislature or the governor’s office reached out to the ACA to ask for a clarification about the organization’s change to its code of ethics.

“At this point I don’t know what to think about the association as a whole,” Sexton said. “All this law does is allow a counselor to refer a patient to another counselor.”