Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Need a second of your time

In today's House Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, Rep. Jeanne Richardson of Memphis had scheduled HB0187, a bill that would repeal Tennessee's current Draconian law prohibiting the amendment of gender on birth certificates. Modern medical science reveals that doctors make mistakes when assigning gender to newborns that can have chaotic and challenging consequences later in life.

Because of current Tennessee  law, transgender citizens cannot accurately reflect their gender on basic identifying documents like driver's licenses, passports and other official documents like a job application that refer back to an individual's birth certificate. This presents problems when performing tasks that require legally recognized identification such as voting, boarding an airplane, passing through security when entering government buildings to speak with your elected officials, or simply ordering a beer at a restaurant.

The State of Tennessee currently requires its transgender citizens who have the misfortune to be born here to lie about their identity on official documents. State-sanctioned falsification of identity creates a number of social, economic and legal problems for transgender citizens to the point of undermining basic human dignity. While this issue may affect a small number of vulnerable citizens in Tennessee, such brazen targeting of a minority in current law leaves our state vulnerable too. The real harm that current law brings to transgender citizens boosts the argument that state law creates a suspect class of citizens protected by the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Tennessee is a sitting duck for a class action lawsuit against the state for targeting a distinct group of citizens for discrimination.

Many thanks to Rep. Jeanne Richardson (D) for sponsoring this bill to repeal current law, Rep. Mike Turner (D) for agreeing to move the the bill for discussion, and to Subcommittee Chair Matthew Hill (R) for allowing a fair hearing of the bill. Unfortunately, the list of those to thank is embarrassingly short. Richardson was forced to take the bill off notice in subcommittee today becuase no one else on the subcommittee, Republican or Democrat, would commit to offer a second on Rep. Turner’s motion. Some of the members of this committee have enjoyed the support of LGBT constituents - which is why this outcome is such a disappointment.

Let’s face it. The birth certificate bill has an uphill climb in this conservative legislature. The best we could hope for was real discussion about it in the legislature to promote awareness of current injustice, but our friends in the House would not even step up to allow that.

Progressive voices are a small group in this General Assembly - the smallest it’s ever been. The reality is that progressives on the Hill have little ground left to lose. And they can't really afford to alienate friends and allies. Which begs the question: when progressives in the legislature need our help, will we have a second?

1 comment:

joe the nerd said...

This is a post about a guy who has been in Wisconsin on a hunger strike for the better part of a month.

Since you are pretty high up on the DFA contest - what are you going to do about this?