This article is from the March 2017 issue of The Lookout newspaper. The Lookout is a social justice street newspaper published by the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center. It is available throughout Chattanooga from distributors who are, who have been or who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. A suggested donation of $1 per copy stays with the distributor. You can also pick up a copy at the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center, 1918 Union Ave., Chattanooga TN 37404, or you can get a year’s subscription to the monthly newspaper for $24 by emailing email@example.com.
By Beth Foster
Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center Director
With her blond, blue-eyed toddler in her arms, Annie Maxwell isn’t the face we’ve grown accustomed to seeing as we hear stories of hate-filled policies breaking up U.S. families.
But, Maxwell finds herself fearing for her family’s future as the Tennessee General Assembly considers what the Tennessee Equality Project has labeled a “Slate of Hate,” at least six bills that target the LGBTQ community and their families.
“While I find all of these to be nothing more than a spread of hate and an attack on our LGBT community, I am especially concerned about SN1153/HB1406,” Maxwell said. “It concerns me because I don’t know what that will mean for my parental rights to my daughter if it were to pass.”
Tennessee Equality Project labels SN1153/HB1406 “The Attack on Parenthood Bill,” stating that it “is directed at lesbian couples and could affect other couples.” The bill repeals a statute that deems a child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.
Maxwell describes her own family as no different than thousands of other families in Tennessee with two moms, “and I find that comforting and a proud sign of change,” she said.
Maxwell and her partner Jamie have been together for 17 years.
“Two years ago we had our perfect baby girl after two years of trying to have her,” Maxwell said. “We went through the adoption process after her birth to have me included as her legal parent. I am not the birth mother. Our adoption went through just about two months before LGBT marriage was federally recognized.”
Although the bill will target her family and is an “underhanded attack on LGBT families,” Maxwell said it will also hurt heterosexual families, “so many families who have already suffered through infertility. What is supposed to be the benefit?”
Katie Garcia and her partner Carol are a lesbian family who have also dealt with infertility, trying to have a baby for more than two years now.
“These recent bills are crushing for our family,” Garcia said. “We haven’t been successful yet. And I’ve recently been diagnosed with a rare disorder that will make a baby with my eggs an impossibility so Carol is donating hers and I will carry. Science is amazing that way. It’s been such a roller coaster. A really, really expensive roller coaster. Dealing with infertility has been hard enough on us but these bills are heart breaking. It’s just one more hoop we have to jump through.”
Other bills on the “Slate of Hate” include:
- SB30/HB33, which the Tennessee Equality project labels as “The LGBT Erasure Bill.” The bill requires the words “father,” “mother,” “husband,” and “wife” be given their “natural and ordinary meaning,” and TEP says the “bill interferes with the identities and families of LGBT people.”
- SB127/HB54, labeled by TEP as “The Business License to Discriminate Bill” is a “subtly worded piece of legislation” that “actually opens the door to allowing businesses and nonprofits to discriminate in their HR and benefit policies while using taxpayer dollars,” according to TEP.
- SB752/HB892 is The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act and states the policy of Tennessee is to defend marriage as only between one man and one woman regardless of what the courts say.
- SB771/HB888 is called “The Anti-Transgender Student Bathroom Bill” by TEP and requires students to use restrooms according to the sex designation on their birth certificates and not according to their gender identity.
- SB1085/HB1111 is “The Sneaky LGBT Erasure Bill,” according to TEP and “does everything that SB30/HB33 does while trying to hide the effects upon the LGBT community from the public.”
The Rev. Brandon Gilvin, pastor at First Christian Church of Chattanooga, is one of several local clergy who have signed a statement titled “Tennessee Clergy Oppose the General Assembly’s Slate of Hate.””Targeting the rights of LGBTQ citizens in Tennessee in the name of Christian values is not based in good science, social science, or sound theology,” Gilvin said. “It’s simply wrapping up one’s lack of understanding or outright bigotry in Christian garb. While I do think it’s important that people of faith be engaged in the work of our political system, the end result should always be motivated by seeing all people as made in the image of God, not rendering anyone a pseudo-citizens.”
Read the list of clergy who have signed the statement on TEP’s website at http://tnep.nationbuilder.com/blog.