NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As the suspect in the deadly shooting at a gay bar in Colorado Springs is being held on hate crime charges, members of the LGBTQ community in Tennessee worry rhetoric and legislation in the Volunteer State will lead to a similar outcome in their own safe havens.
“Tennessee continues to pass laws and bring bills to the table that encourage the hate and empower people to commit these crimes against us,” wrote Lipstick Lounge owner Christa Suppan in a Facebook post.
In 2019, there were nine hate crimes against members of the LGBT community, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. In 2021, that number doubled to 18.
This comes as three of the nine senate bills proposed so far for the next legislative session are being called anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ by activists in Tennessee.
“I think absolutely anti-LGBTQ legislation is connected to acts of violence towards the LGBTQ community,” said transgender Tennesseean Brendon Holloway. “When lawmakers push such a hateful narrative about a community and then that narrative becomes mainstream it impacts how society views the LGBTQ community at large.”
However, the author of two of those bills strongly disagrees.
“It is important to understand the motive behind the legislation. And the legislation I’ve introduced for this session is not anti-trans. It is not anti-LGBTQ. It is pro-child,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson.
Senate Bill 1 prohibits health care providers from performing gender-affirming procedures for trans minors.
Senate Bill 3 bans “adult cabaret performances” in public spaces or in places where they can be seen by a child. The law includes “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest.” Holloway sees this bill as anti-drag.
“That is pro-child, it is not pro-anyone,” Johnson said of Senate Bill 3. “We regulate explicit adult-themed sexually explicit entertainment already, unfortunately, there is a loophole in the law that we need to close.”
Johnson also expressed that he condemns the violence in Colorado Springs, “in the strongest of terms.” He said he is praying for the victims and their families.
Roberto Che Espinoza, Ph.D., a non-binary transgender activist and visiting scholar at Vanderbilt Unversity Divinity School says these laws can create a slippery slope for people who are not white, heterosexual or Christian.
“They are impacting the LGBTQ community and they are harming the LGBTQ community of which I am part. I think they are anti-difference,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza says embracing these differences will save and improve lives and Johnson hopes his bills will do the same.