This past Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill into law that many fear will be used to harm LGBTQ couples and families. Using language that seems lifted straight from Orwell’s 1984, the bill requires that “undefined” words be interpreted only by their “natural and ordinary” meaning.
The anti-LGBTQ group Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), who lobbied for the bill, didn’t mince words with regards to the new law’s intent:
“States did not think it necessary to define marriage in terms of a man and a woman because the definition was assumed,” the group wrote on its website. “This bill tells courts that the words the Legislature uses mean what everyone thinks they mean, not something else.”
In a video released by FACT, the group’s president and former Tennessee state Senator David Fowler elaborated further:
“When we say husband, we mean a man. When we use the word father, we mean a man,” he said. “When we use a word, we mean for it to mean what everybody thinks it means. And if that word makes the law unconstitutional, so be it.”
In a statement, though, Governor Haslam said he doesn’t believe the legislation will accomplish anything that “isn’t already relied up by the court’s, even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015.”
However, as NBC News pointed out in a recent article, this statement directly contradicts one written by the Tennessee Attorney General, Herbert Slatery, who said the bill could “provoke a challenge to same-sex marriage.”
LGBTQ advocate, Chris Sanders, of the Tennessee Equality Project, further told NBC News that he fears the legislation is a way for conservative groups to “get the marriage issue back before the courts.”
“We’re telling our members that if anyone is harmed by this law to let us know, so it can be challenged,” he told the news organization.