Tennessee bill allows rapists to block abortion for victims; lawmakers appoint shady ammunition dealer to Board of Education


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Like other red states, Tennessee is enthusiastically following the lead of Florida and Texas by introducing copycat bills to limit abortion access, ban books, and erase LGBTQ+ people from history.

Don’t say gay bill 2.0: Tennessee state Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris, TN) introduced a more draconian version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill last month. Whereas Florida’s bill is aimed at children in kindergarten through grade 3, Griffey’s HB 800 covers K-12 and includes more restrictive language:

[Local educational agencies] and public charter schools shall not locally adopt or use in the public schools of this state, textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles.

A ban on normalizing and addressing LGBTQ+ persons or issues would put teachers in legal peril for allowing students with two moms or dads to talk freely about their families. Any book or discussion that treats LGBTQ+ individuals as ordinary would be prohibited.

Griffey turns to religion to justify the bill’s attack on LGBTQ+ peoples’ very existence:

WHEREAS, the promotion of LGBT issues and lifestyles in public schools offends a significant portion of students, parents, and Tennessee residents with Christian values; and

WHEREAS, the promotion of LGBT issues and lifestyles should be subject to the same restrictions and limitations placed on the teaching of religion in public schools;

Abortion bounty 2.0: A Tennessee House committee considered a bill last week that would ban all abortions and allow anyone to sue those who help someone seek an abortion. Unlike Texas’ bounty bill, House Bill 2779 does not allow abortions within the first 6 weeks of pregnancy and does not contain a firm expectation for rape or incest.

Representative Bob Freeman (D – Nashville) asked [Alexander] whether she believed the bill would allow families of rapists to sue victims if they get an abortion after they are raped. He said around one in six women in Tennessee are survivors of rape. “You could have a rapist and that rapist could impregnate a young lady, a minor, and the rapist’s mother or father could bring suit against that minor if they decided to get an abortion if this passes,” Freeman said.

[Alexander] said while the bill says rapists would not be able to bring charges against victims. However, she said it says nothing about their friends or families, and victims would end up having to pay a $10,000 fine.

Rapist bill of rights: Two Tennessee state lawmakers, Republicans Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton, introduced legislation that would allow a father to deny an abortion without the pregnant woman’s consent. The bill’s language does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

“I believe a father should have a right to say what’s gonna be happening to that child,” Pody said. “And if somebody is going to kill that child, he should be able to say, ‘No, I don’t want that child to be killed. I want to able to raise that child and love that child.'”

Book bans: Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill that would drastically change what materials are available in public school libraries. HB 1944 is a vague ban on any books or instructional materials that contain “obscene materials or materials harmful to minors.” Providing students access to such material would result in a criminal fine for librarians and a maximum $50,000 fine. It passed the House Education Administration Committee in an 11-2 vote last week.

“Banning children from access to literature, criminalizing librarians is wrong, I’m offended that my librarians were compared to sex predators, and pedophiles lurking around in white vans that means someone doesn’t even know what the bill does and has no idea what a librarian does,” said Rep. G.A Hardaway (D-Memphis).

Meanwhile, in a sign of the importance placed on education in Tennessee, lawmakers confirmed Gov. Bill Lee’s (R) appointment of an ammunition company owner to the State Board of Education. Jordan Mollenhour, owner of online firearm ammunition company Lucky Gunner, was approved to the position in a 71-14 House vote Thursday. Lucky Gunner has been sued for selling ammunition involved in two mass shootings, including the Aurora, Colorado, movie shooting.

Republican House Majority Leader William Lamberth defended Mollenhour on Thursday, saying that “if a person sells enough ammunition, there will be an evil person that misuses it.”