Nashville, TN–Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), a statewide LGBTQ rights and public policy organization, praises the recent opinion of the Tennessee Attorney General determining that transgender people are covered in existing state hate crimes law.
In a February 8 opinion delivered to State Representative Mike Stewart, who worked with TEP in seeking the opinion, Attorney General Herbert Slattery’s office wrote: “A defendant who targets a person for a crime because that person is transgender has targeted the person because of his or her gender within the meaning of § 40-35-114(17).”
The opinion means that Tennessee is the first state in the South with a hate crimes law that includes transgender people.
TEP Board Member Carla Lewis notes, “Today is a big win for the people of Tennessee. The analysis and legal opinion of Attorney General Slattery is in agreement with growing case law that affirms bias against transgender people is gender-based bias. Further, the opinion cites past and current employment case law, which raises the urgent question of transgender people being protected by Tennessee’s housing, employment, and public accommodations nondiscrimination laws.”
TEP executive director Chris Sanders provides background on why the group sought the Attorney General’s opinion: “Last year, Senator Sara Kyle sponsored a bill to add gender identity and expression to Tennessee’s hate crime law. The bill received a long discussion in committee, but it failed to move. Part of the discussion centered on whether the word ‘gender’ in the existing statute covers transgender people. We decided to take steps to make it official and worked with Rep. Stewart to seek an opinion. We are delighted with the result, which provides another tool to protect transgender people who are often at risk for violence.”
TEP thanks the ACLU of Tennessee for advocating for the original hate crimes law, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition for advocating for their bill attempting to update the law last year, Senator Sara Kyle for sponsoring last year’s bill, Rep. Mike Stewart for seeking the opinion, and the Attorney General’s Office for a response that makes transgender Tennesseans safer.
The opinion is available at this link → https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7D6dMgg_p-oT1VxUGJBS2RscXpiLW1LczNSbkl2Uko5d1Rj/view?fbclid=IwAR0JX4CzjHF-KReBcB7NKnqXswuMxrpdKB3SAdhSJzLUVjjJCawqV-RIpSo .
A map showing which states include gender identity and/or sexual orientation in their hate crimes laws is found at this link → https://www.hrc.org/state-maps/hate-crimes . Note: The map may not yet be updated to take into account the Tennessee Attorney General’s opinion.