Tennessee State Capitol Senate Chamber – Photo: Kenneth C. Zirkel, via Wikimedia.
A new survey by the Human Rights Campaign claims that a majority of Tennessee voters oppose state lawmakers’ prioritization of multiple pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation, as well as the actual content of the bills that have been introduced this session.
The survey, which polled 893 likely voters in Tennessee from Jan. 30-31, finds that 62% of voters — including majorities across age, race, gender, and educational divides, and even political affiliations — say state lawmakers are “too focused on divisive issues and should be focusing on pressing issues that will actually have an impact on Tennesseans, like growing the economy.”
For example, just 4% of all voters and 1% of Republicans say that “regulating transgender rights” is among the most important issues for the state government to address. In fact, regulating transgender rights was the least important among a list of specific priorities posed to poll respondents.
Instead, the issue that Tennessee voters prioritize most is healthcare costs, with 41% naming it their number one concern, and 55% saying they disapprove of the job Republican leaders are doing on tackling health care concerns.
When it comes to specifics, 63% of Tennessee voters oppose a bill to restrict transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming health care and penalize doctors who prescribe hormones or puberty blockers to assist in a gender transition.
Sixty percent oppose a new law, signed into effect by Gov. Bill Lee (R), that grants a religious exemption to adoption and foster care agencies by allowing them to discriminate against same-sex couples and others.
Meanwhile, 56% of voters oppose a bill to allow small businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ patrons based on their religious beliefs. Another 56% oppose a bill to require the Attorney General to defend schools that don’t have transgender-inclusive restroom policies.
“For years, a group of extreme lawmakers have been targeting LGBTQ people in Tennessee, spreading misinformation and using vicious, harmful rhetoric while doing so,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Yet, as these new survey results show, most people in Tennessee have no interest in pursuing divisiveness for the sake of divisiveness, and think that anti-LGBTQ bills are a solution in search of a problem. Elected officials should be looking out for all of their constituents, not targeting the most vulnerable among them to appeal to a shrinking population.”
The anti-LGBTQ bills may also reinforce any negative perceptions that Tennesseans may have already held about their elected officials. Only about 38% of voters say the governor and Republican lawmakers “share my values,” while 55% say they are “out of touch.”
Furthermore, the HRC survey seems to indicate that a majority of Tennesseans also support being more inclusive of LGBTQ people. Fifty-seven percent agreed with the statement, “We need to stop stigmatizing transgender people as a society.” Meanwhile, 72% of voters said they support “protecting LGBTQ people against discrimination in the workplace.”
“The support we receive in cities like Martin, Dickson, Murfreesboro, and Morristown confirms these poll results,” Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, said in a statement. “Rural and urban voters know that Tennessee can’t succeed by stigmatizing LGBTQ people with attack legislation. It’s time for the Legislature to put these old battles behind us so we can build our state together.”
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