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Tennessee clergy take stand against state bills

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Religious leaders in Tennessee are taking a stand against a slate of legislation they view as being discriminatory toward LGBT people. 

More than 100 clergy members from across the state signed onto a statement opposing six bills before the Tennessee General Assembly this session.

“As leaders of faith communities we oppose these bills in the Tennessee General Assembly. They promote discrimination rather than justice and demean the worth of LGBTQ people in our state. We call on people of good will to join us in speaking out for basic fairness,” the statement reads. 

The Rev. Paul Purdue, who leads Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, added his name to the list because Jesus calls Christians to defend those on the margins, he said. 

“I think that equal protection under the law is kind of the beginning of justice, and we should always be thinking about that,” said Purdue. “It’s important to stand up and to call people to pay attention and to say that God loves everyone.”

Feb. 26: United Methodist delegates reject plan allowing same-sex marriage, LGBT clergy

Feb. 7: Tennessee bills would allow adoption agencies to deny LGBT couples on religious grounds

The Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for the rights of LGBT people in the state, helped organize the faith leaders who signed on to the statement. 

Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, said in a news release that all six of the bills “strike at the dignity of LGBT people” in the state. Each bill is sponsored by Republican lawmakers.  

“These six bills attack our marriages, ability to form families, exist in public spaces, and they even undermine our ability to advocate with our own city governments for protection against discrimination,” Sanders said. 

The six bills that equality advocates consider to be anti-LGBT are: 

  • SB848/HB1152 would allow adoption agencies to deny services to couples for religious reasons.  
  • SB1304/HB836 is similar legislation.    
  • SB364/HB563 is related to government contracts and would protect businesses from being penalized by the government for their internal policies such as health insurance and anti-discrimination policies. 
  • SB1297/HB1151 seeks to enhance punishment for any person who commits indecent exposure in bathrooms, dressing rooms, etc. It would include offenses committed by offenders who are members of the opposite sex than the sex designated by the bathroom’s use.  
  • SB1499/HB1274 would direct the state attorney general to defend any schools sued for having a policy that requires students to use the restroom corresponding with their sex at birth. 
  • SB1282/HB1369 would make it the state’s policy to defend marriage as being between one man and one woman despite any court decision that says otherwise. 

Follow Holly Meyer on Twitter: @HollyAMeyer 

Jan. 31: ‘Sobering reality’: LGBT progress report shows gains, but most states still won’t grant rights

Jan. 24: South Carolina foster care program that only works with Christians granted religious exemption


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