UPDATE: after abruptly cutting off debate, the Republican majority in the Tennessee House overwhelmingly passed HB1111. It moves now to the Senate. See stories on the "sneak attack" from Metro Weekly and Fox17.
A controversial bill that would require "undefined words be given their natural and ordinary meaning" is up for a vote in the full House at the Tennessee Legislature on Thursday, March 16 and a primary supporter is on record to confirm it is exactly the LGBT Erasure bill that we feared.
In a video posted on its YouTube page (see below), the Family Action Council's David Fowler walks viewers through the intention behind HB1111, a bill that the Tennessee Equality Project dubbed the "LGBT Erasure bill" upon its introduction.
The language of HB1111 is intentionally worded broadly, according to Fowler, because "this is an attempt to tell the court, in cases like Knoxville and future cases, [that] when we use a word we mean for it to mean what everybody thinks it means and if that word makes the law unconstitutional, so be it."
The Knoxville case that Fowler references is a child custody battle between two lesbian parents, Erica and Sabrina Witt.
Another reason the language of the bill is worded so broadly is because an earlier, more explicit version — SB30/HB33 — drew widespread criticism. That bill "requires that the words 'husband,' 'wife,' 'mother,' and 'father' be given their natural and ordinary meaning."
“The similarities are not a coincidence," said Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project in a statement. "After the backlash that followed the obviously anti-LGBT SB30/HB33, there was a shift to HB1111. In the video, Fowler acknowledges the pivot from SB30/HB33 toward HB1111 after their initial response.
Sanders: “And now we have clear evidence of the connection between the two bills in a video by Family Action Council of Tennessee. As well as being outraged by this attack on our relationships and our ability to be parents, we are disturbed that the organization lobbying for the bill is unconcerned that it is likely to be found unconstitutional.”
The Tennessee Equality Project urges legislators to pause before rushing into an unconstitutional attack that would disrupt Tennessee families. The last time Tennessee fought marriage equality, the state was liable for legal bills of about $2 million.
As well, the organization notes that over 80 Tennessee clergy have voiced opposition to HB1111 and other bills that are part of a “slate of hate” against the LGBT community.