Tennessee and Oklahoma lawmakers led "wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation" in 2016
NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee and Oklahoma legislatures led the nation last year in a national "wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation" following the U.S. Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling, according to a group that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
Oklahoma ranked No. 1 with 30 such bills while Tennessee was No. 2 with 17 measures.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national group advocating on LGBTQ issues, says such legislation "meant to restrict the rights of LGBTQ individuals and their families."
In 2016 alone, legislators in 38 states filed about 250 bills and "more than 200 of those posed real threat of passage," Human Rights Campaign officials said.
"As was predicted, and in large part as push back to the Obergefell v Hodges decision which brought marriage equality nationwide in summer of 2015, many of the bills filed in 2016 were religious refusal bills," HRC says.
The group says "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA), originally intended to protect religious minorities from discrimination, were crafted with the intention of allowing individuals and businesses to deny service and employment to LGBTQ people based on a professed "religious belief."
Only five bills the HRC says they identified as targeting the LGBTQ community were identified as passing nationwide in 2016.
One of those, sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, became state law in Tennessee.
The measure, which drew national attention, superseded the American Counseling Association's code of ethics to allow therapists and counselors to reject clients whose goals were at odds with the professionals' "sincerely held beliefs."
Meanwhile, Republican majority lawmakers in Tennessee as well as in other states also pushed "bathroom bills" requiring students to use restrooms sports locker rooms to use facilities that correspond to the sex listed on birth certificates.
Tennessee's House bill was withdrawn by its Republican sponsor at the last minute after Republican Gov. Bill Haslam urged the GOP-dominated General Assembly not to pass it due to concerns raised by businesses and potential boycotts in light of a similar law being enacted in North Carolina.
This year, Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, have introduced legislation that would in no uncertain terms define the terms of mother, father, husband and wife in Tennessee.
It says the terms should be "given their natural and ordinary meaning" based on "biological distinctions between women and men."
Lawmakers say it stems from a civil court case in Knoxville where gender roles in state law was at issue in the case of two same-sex parents wrangling over child custody.
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