Last year Senator Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) carried a bill in the Tennessee legislature that would have added gender identity and expression to the Tennessee hate crime law, making sure Transgender individuals were covered when targeted. Legislators decided not to move forward with the bill, in part because they thought “gender” already included transgender people.
With the help of Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), LGBT advocates recently asked the Tennessee Attorney General’s office for an official opinion about whether the law in fact cover transgender people as a hate crime, which would mean harsher sentences for anyone who targeted them.
The Verdict: Yes, the law covers them.
Attorney General Slatery’s opinion uses the Oxford definition of “gender” to explain that:
“A defendant who targets a person for a crime because that person is transgender has targeted the person because of his or her gender”
Meaning that a court CAN “enhance” a sentence if the defendant has targeted a transgender person.
The opinion was delivered by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III’s office to Rep. Mike Stewart this week.
The LGBT community has received this as great news, calling it a “good, solid victory.
From Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project:
“After hearing testimony in a legislative committee and considering the need to make sure transgender people have more protections, we followed a hunch and it worked. We are grateful to Rep. Mike Stewart for working diligently with us on this and to Sen. Sara Kyle, who carried the trans-inclusive hate crimes bill last year.”
Despite this win, there are still a number of discriminatory bills snaking their way through the legislature. Read about them here, and holler at your state reps to let them know hate has no home in Tennessee.
And while we’re here, some facts and myths about transgender people with regard to those bathroom bills, which are still around.