NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In the final hours of the 113th General Assembly, Tennessee Republicans passed two bills that target the transgender community and put the state at risk of losing billions in federal funding.
One of the bills would allow teachers and public school employees to not use a student’s preferred pronouns, which could violate the U.S. Department of Education’s 2022 rules on gender identity, sexuality and sex-based discrimination.
The other bill would define the word “sex” in Tennessee Code as, “a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.”
According to the fiscal notes provided by the Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee, the state could lose more than $2 billion in federal funding this upcoming fiscal year as a result of the bills being in violation of federal requirements.
“Tennessee’s federal awards for education total $1,293,583,239,” according to Fiscal Review Committee Executive Director Krista Lee Carsner. In addition to risking Dept. of Education funding, the bill could jeopardize $750,000,000 in federal grant funding from the Dept. of Health, according to the fiscal note.
Rep. Mark Cochran (R-Englewood), however, claimed a recent court decision makes Tennessee exempt from the Biden Administration’s 2022 rules on gender identity and sexuality.
“I refer you to Tennessee v The Department of Education,” said Cochran, who co-sponsored both bills, when asked about the funding risk.
Responding to Cochran’s claims, Rep. GA Hardaway (D-Memphis) said Cochran is mistaken.
“It seems the Fiscal Committee didn’t get that memo because federal dollars would be at risk, so they evidently disagree with you,” Hardaway said.
While Democrats say the first bill would allow teachers to bully transgender students, Cochran said that is not the intention of the legislation.
“It does protect our teachers from bullying from some of the greatest perpetrators of the act in human history: the ‘woke left,'” Cochran said.
Cochran’s Republican colleagues not only voted for the bill but also applauded him for fighting for the legislation.
“Legislation like this to protects individual rights, honors God, promotes a Christian world view. It’s why Tennessee is growing economically and by population,” said Rep. Rusty Grills (R-Newbern).
Regarding the legislation defining the word “sex” in the Tennessee code, sponsor Rep. Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood) said it is “good policy.”
“What this bill does is it recognizes the importance of the family, which is the bedrock of our society and civilization and attempts to undermine the family through legislation is frankly at the root of this plague of violence that is throughout our entire nation right now,” Bulso said.
However, Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said that Bulso’s views on “family” aren’t relevant to his legislation.
“His theological views are not pertinent to the definition of ‘sex’ in this context,” Rep. Clemmons said.
Both pieces of legislation passed with more than 70 votes in the House out of a total of 99 members. They now head to the governor’s desk.