Tennessee Passes ‘Natural and Ordinary Meaning’ Bill Which Will Strip Rights From Same-Sex Couples, Women


'LGBT Erasure' Bill Can Deprive Same-Sex Couples Of Rights In Adoption, Birth Certificate Issues

Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill that would effectively disenfranchise same-sex couples and women in areas including marriage and adoption, but easily might extend to property laws and other areas. The bill, if Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signs it into law, would require the government to use the "natural and ordinary meaning" of words not specifically defined in laws, which might sound reasonable, but it's not.

For example, a same-sex couple could be refused the right to have both parents' names on a birth or adoption certificate, if the law or form specifies "husband and wife," or "mother and father."

The Washington Post reports "LGBT rights groups say the measure is as insidious as it is simple, calling it a veiled attempt at undermining the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationally."

And if anyone thinks this is not the bill's intent, just watch one lawmaker's argument for its passage.

"According to GLAAD," TeenVogue writes, "which listened in on the hearing, state Sen. Richard Briggs spoke in support of HB 1111 by mentioning who qualifies as a 'natural' parent."

"We may not like some of the things we see, and we may not like the way that things are being defined these days but I think at some point we are going to have to go back and write a whole new section of law that's dealing with these complex issues," Senator Briggs said, "when you have same-sex couples and try to define better what are — what do parental rights mean when you have maybe a natural mother and a not natural other parent. And the same and be said, for fathers."

What's complex?

"The passage of this legislation is an egregious and blatantly unconstitutional effort to take away the rights of same-sex couples," Freedom for All Americans said in a statement. "I urge Gov. Haslam to take a definitive stand for Tennessee's LGBT community and veto this vindictive piece of legislation." 

The group, which calls HB 1111/SB 1085 an "LGBT Erasure bill," writes that Tennessee's "Attorney General has said it contradicts laws guaranteeing the right of same-sex couples to marry, and that it could result in costly lawsuits."

The Human Rights Campaign adds that the bill "would have both intended and unintended consequences. For example, a woman may not be able to place her wife's name on the birth certificate of their child. In court proceedings, a married opposite-sex couple could be entitled to confidential communications, but not a married same-sex couple. The measure could even prohibit surrogacy for same-sex couples."

It could also have consequences beyond the LGBTQ community. For example, it would impact state constitutional protections for women by prohibiting state courts from reading the term "man" to also include "woman." The Tennessee law requiring no "man's" services or property be taken without consent or compensation could suddenly be interpreted to exclude the same protections for women.

Democratic U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper of Nashville opposes the bill:

NBC News quotes the Tennessee AG, Herbert Slatery, who wrote of the legislation: "Statutes that are related to marriage or to the terms, conditions, benefits, or obligations of marriage could, in some instances, be in conflict with the holding in Obergefell if gender-specific words in those statutes were construed according to the proposed legislation."

In fact, it's entirely unclear why the bill is even necessary. Unless discrimination is its actual intent.

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