December 10, 2022
Every December 10th, the world celebrates International Human Rights Day. This day serves to remind us all that human rights are universal and must be protected and respected everywhere. Despite this, not everyone is granted the same level of protection or respect. In particular, many members of the LGBTQIA+ community living in the Southern United States face discrimination and unequal treatment daily due to restrictive laws and a lack of legal protections. Let's take a closer look at this problem by examining the current anti-LGBTQIA+ laws in Tennessee.
Tennessee’s Anti-LGBTQIA+ Laws
Tennessee has some of the most restrictive anti-LGBTQIA+ laws in the country. According to the Movement Advancement Project, Tennessee is 1 of only 8 states with no explicit state-level employment protections for LGBTQIA+ people, meaning that it is perfectly legal to fire someone based solely on their gender identity or sexual orientation. The state also does not have any public accommodations laws which explicitly protect LGBTQIA+ individuals from discrimination, nor does it have any policies protecting transgender students from discrimination in schools or universities. In addition, conversion therapy—which is widely discredited as both ineffective and dangerous—is still allowed in Tennessee despite numerous attempts to ban it over the last decade. Conversion therapy is especially harmful to vulnerable children who are exposed to these practices without their consent; it can cause depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and PTSD. Furthermore, marriage equality was only granted in 2015 after a long battle with state officials; although there are now legal protections for married LGBT couples in Tennessee, they are still not afforded all of the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to adoption or surrogacy.
The right to life, liberty, and security should extend to all individuals regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation but unfortunately, this isn't always true. On International Human Rights Day we remember that everyone deserves freedom from fear and freedom from want; however many members of the LGBTQIA+ community living in Tennessee still don't have access to basic human rights such as employment protection or access to healthcare services without fear of discrimination or judgment due to outdated laws and regulations. We must work together as a society to ensure that LGBTQIA+ individuals everywhere enjoy equal rights under the law so that we can truly celebrate International Human Rights Day every year.