sexual orientation

UT chancellor plans to bring back a director for LGBT Pride Center

University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport is making plans to bring back a director for its LGBT pride center, reports the News Sentinel.

For the last year, the job has been unfilled after the Tennessee legislature decided to redirect funds from the school’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the part-time position was eliminated, forcing students to run the center on their own with some administrative oversight from the dean of students.

Student and faculty groups such as the Pride Center Working Group have for the last several months called for UT and Davenport to hire a pride center director and put in place other initiatives aimed at promoting and preserving diversity on campus.

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AG in court filing: ‘Natural and ordinary’ law does ‘nothing new at all’

Start of an Associated Press report:

NASHVILLE (AP) — A new law that’s been criticized as discriminatory against same-sex couples actually does “nothing new at all,” Tennessee’s attorney general contends in a legal filing.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery made that argument last week in a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by four married lesbian couples expecting children through artificial insemination.

The law requires using the “natural and ordinary meaning” of words in state law. Gay rights groups have contended that the requirement offers a sneaky way to deny same-sex couples the legal rights and protections granted to a “husband,” a “wife,” a “father” or “mother.”

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Judge ignores ‘natural and ordinary meaning’ of ‘husband;’ rejects legislator intervention in lesbian divorce

Knox County Circuit Court Judge Greg McMillan has granted a woman the legal rights of a husband, reports the News Sentinel, changing an earlier ruling to stand in apparent direct conflict with the “natural and ordinary meaning” law recently approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam.

In a reversal from his decision last year, McMillan last week penned approval of a divorce for same-sex couple Sabrina Witt and Erica Witt that includes designation of Erica Witt as the father of the couple’s daughter, conceived through artificial insemination.

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Lesbian couples challenge ‘natural and ordinary’ bill in court

Just four days after Gov. Bill Haslam signed the “natural and ordinary meaning” bill into law, four lesbian couples – expectant parents of children conceived through artificial insemination – have filed a lawsuit contending the measure is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, naming Haslam, state Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner and the Tennessee Department of Health as defendants.

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Haslam signs ‘natural and ordinary meaning’ bill

Despite a campaign by LGBT advocacy groups urging him to veto the “natural and ordinary meaning” bill, Gov. Bill Haslam has signed the measure into law.

Here’s the press release:

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More calls for Haslam veto of ‘natural and ordinary’ bill from backers of LGBT rights

Advocates for LBGT rights held a news conference Wednesday to urge Gov. Bill Haslam to veto the ”natural and ordinary” bill, though it’s a pretty safe bet he will not do so. Speakers included Jim Obergefell, an Ohio real estate broker who was lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court decision (entitled Obergefell v. Hodges) that validated same-sex marriages.

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‘Natural and ordinary’ bill approved, brings LGBT complaints to deferring Haslam

Excerpt from an Associated Press report:

Words in state law must be interpreted as having “natural and ordinary meaning” under a bill passed by the Tennessee Senate on Thursday. Critics call it a sneaky way of encouraging state judges to deny rights to same-sex couples and transgender people.

LGBT groups lamented the 23-6 vote and immediately began prodding Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for a veto, but his spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said he is “deferred to the will of the legislature.” The House approved the same legislation last month.

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Sen. Green: I only labeled ‘murderous terrorists” evil (but urged doctor ‘cherry picking’ of patients?)

In apparently his first response to criticism from LGBT and Muslim groups on his nomination by President Trump as U.S. Army secretary, state Sen. Mark Green declares on Facebook that “the liberal left has cut and spliced my words about terrorism and ISIS blatantly falsifying what I’ve said. “

“The only people I have ever called evil are murderous terrorists trying to kill Americans,” he writes. “The only people I have ever suggested be crushed are the terrorist enemies of our nation.”

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AG: In TN, ‘men’ includes ‘women’ so courts may say ‘husband’ does, too

A new state attorney general opinion says a House-passed bill declaring courts must use the “natural and ordinary meaning” of undefined words in interpreting Tennessee statutes may not work when it comes to words such as “husband” and “wife,” according to a new attorney general’s opinion.

The bill in question appears to conflict with existing state law on gender-specific words and could also be at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling, the opinion says. The bill passed the House 70-23 on March 16 and is awaiting a Senate floor vote.

Excerpt from the opinion (the whole thing is HERE):

Question 2: If a Tennessee court construed words such as “husband,” “wife,” “father,” or “mother” by their ordinary meaning as required by Senate Bill 1085/House Bill 1111 if it were to become law, would that construction be counter to the holding of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015)?

Opinion 2: Statutes that are related to marriage or to the terms, conditions, benefits, or obligations of marriage could, in some instances, be in conflict with the holding in Obergefell if gender-specific words in those statutes were construed according to the proposed legislation. But not every statute that has gender-specific terms would necessarily conflict with Obergefell if it were construed according to the proposed legislation.

We note, however, that if the proposed legislation were to become law, it may not necessarily result in a judicial construction of statutes that preserves the literal meaning of gender-specific words. The Tennessee Legislature has already expressed its intent that gender-specific words are to be construed as gender-inclusive when they appear in the Tennessee Code. The proposed legislation could, in some instances, be in direct conflict with Tenn. Code Ann. § 1-3-104(b) which instructs that “[w]ords importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.” Any conflict between this existing statute and the proposed legislation would be resolved to allow the specific to control the more general statute. Thus, in construing certain statutes with gender-limiting words, a court would likely apply the very specific gender-inclusive requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 1-3-104(b) rather than the very general “ordinary meaning” requirements of the proposed legislation.

Note: The bill, and a similar measure, were inspired by a Knoxville judge’s ruling in a child custody dispute between divorcing lesbians who were legally married in another state. The ruling said only the biological mother of the child, born after artificial insemination, has any legal rights to custody. Previous post HERE.

Green’s Army secretary nomination draws national LGBT activist criticism

State Sen. Mark Green’s selection by President Trump as U.S Secretary of the Army, formally announced Friday, is drawing criticism from LGBT activists in national media reporting. If confirmed, the Clarksville Republican will succeed Eric Fanning, a 2016 Obama appointee who became the first openly gay person to be named as head of any branch of the U.S. military services.

A sampler from reports over the weekend:

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