A proposal winding its way through the Tennessee legislature has been flagged as a discriminatory bill by the Tennessee Equality Project, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization.
If passed SB30/HB33 would require that the terms "mother", "father", "husband", and "wife" be given their "natural and ordinary meaning without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, and are based on the biological distinctions between and man and a woman".
For Rep. John Ragan, who sponsors the bill along with Sen. Janice Rowling, the bill's purpose is straightforward; establish a uniform definition among these familial terms for the sake of consistency across multiple sections of the Tennessee state code.
"It’s routine for the legislature to review court cases and take court decisions and put them into a code for ease of reference when they affect multiple sections of the code," said Ragan, adding that there were nine different sections of the state code covering everything from civil procedure to inheritance law where these terms were used.
"This is just an area that looks like it needs to have definitions put into the section of code that has definitions in it," Ragan said.
When asked about addressing the concerns of LGBTQ Tennesseans concerned that the bill could infringe upon their constitutional right to marriage as guaranteed by the ruling in the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision, Ragan noted that "The Supreme Court doesn't grant rights. The Declaration of Independence says our rights come from our creator."
Chris Sanders with TEP isn't buying any of it.
"That's a clue to what he's talking about," said Sanders. "He doesn't have anything to say to us, because this bill is trying to erase us. And you don't have to talk to people who aren't there."
Sanders points out that this isn't Ragan's first go around with introducing legislation packing potential consequences for LGBTQ Tennesseans. In fact Ragan, was the house sponsor of the hotly contested yet ultimately defeated "Don't Say Gay" bill in 2013.
"He is not pro-equality," said Sanders. "If we wanted to clean up the language in Tennessee law, we could work on a technical corrections bill that would work on definitions pertaining to parent and spouse."
Sanders also asserts that he does not believe that legal codification is in Ragan's area of expertise.
"That indicates that there is an agenda here," said Sanders. "Clearly this is about our community, and clearly there can be a serious impact when you make laws with a shotgun like this."
TEP has issued a call-to-action that urges concerned Tennesseans to contact their representatives and voice their opposition to SB30/HB33.