House Repubs shut off ‘natural and ordinary’ debate, quickly approve bill

The House on Thursday passed a bill that the state’s LGBT community fears is an attack on their parental rights in disguise, reports the Nashville Post.

Sponsored by Rep. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville), HB 1111 states that in the Tennessee Code, “undefined words shall be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest.”

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh questioned Farmer on the necessity of the bill, asking if a catfish farm would count in the “natural and ordinary meaning” of the word “farm.”

“We’re not trying to step out and place anything in a small little box here,” Farmer replied. “We all know for example, there are places in the code that say ‘men,’ or maybe humanity, and we know that ‘men’ don’t always mean ‘a man.’ It can mean ‘a man and a woman,’ and there are portions of the code that make that very, very clear.”

“So you’re basically saying this is already the law,” Fitzhugh asked.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Farmer replied. But before Fitzhugh could follow up, debate was cut off. The bill passed 70 to 23.

Afterwards, House Democrats criticized their counterparts for cutting off debate (which happened several times Thursday morning).

“It disturbed me, because this has become a pattern. When they don’t want to hear what Democrats have to say, they cut off the debate,” Rep. Joe Towns (D-Memphis) said, adding that he wanted to ask Farmer several questions to get him on the record as to the intent of the bill. “Why is there no debate? Why is there such a rush to get out of here? Why is it that you are trying to cloak everything? There’s already a problem with elected officials being distrusted and not being transparent, and they need to be more open. At the end of the fight, they have the votes, and they still can whip us, but they don’t even want us to debate the bills, and that’s just not democratic.”

Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, said the lack of discussion was telling.

“The majority allowed no real discussion of the implications of the bill, which further leads the public to believe the bill is attempting to hide something. That something is a covert attack on LGBT legal relationships and parenting,” Sanders said in an email.

2 Responses to House Repubs shut off ‘natural and ordinary’ debate, quickly approve bill

  • David A. Collins says:

    Once again, big government republicans want a law when they admit what is in the bill is already the law. If Rep. Farmer is being truthful, then he is not a true conservative, because a true conservative believes that for every one law they pass they should repeal at least one existing law. However, I don’t believe him. Unfortunately, it appears that republican officeholders in Tennessee have watched their “fearless leader” Donald Trump and learned from him that lying has no apparent immediate repercussions.

  • Odysseus Bostick says:

    I doubt bills like this could survive a legal challenge. At its heart, the terms as narrowly defined are only done so within the confines of a historical or ideological context – both of which would be struck down if alllied in a defense.

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