“It is there in case someone tries to alter the Senate Bill 0001 in any way to weaken what it needs to do on behalf of the minor children in the state of Tennessee,” Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) said of SB0005 in a voicemail.
Bowling filed the legislation last week.
Tennessee transgender activists say legislators have filed these bills without consulting the people they affect. “Those are fears that are built without any interaction with us,” Tennessee Equality Project Community Educator Dahron Johnson said. “There’s no conversation with us.”
Johnson is part of the transgender community—a community she says just wants to be accepted by all. “They want to be able to use the bathroom and play sports and go to school and learn about themselves and be able to go to the doctor and get the care for the persons that they are, however, and whoever they are.”
The new bill is very similar to the first—which was filed by Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) after a conservative commentator accused Vanderbilt of running its transgender clinic for profit motives only.
Bowling’s bill has two key additions to the Johnson/Lamberth one:
- It protects whistleblowers who report someone providing children’s transgender therapy.
- It explicitly says state funds cannot be used for gender transition therapy.
Most Republicans have come out in support of children’s transgender restrictions, while most Democrats are on the other side.
“There are hundreds of real problems facing families right now–housing affordability, inflation, school funding, access to health care, childcare,” said Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville). “But instead of solving real problems, bills like this are attacking already marginalized families.”
Johnson made a plea to legislators to at least consider bringing in the people who this bill would affect. “One of the things that would be most helpful is if one of these legislators filing one of these bills would just take the time to sit down with a trans youth and hear what it is to have lived their experience,” she said.