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Did LGBT Tennesseans just get legal protections?

A largely overlooked case issued by the Tennessee Court of Appeals may have given lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals new protections from discrimination in the state of Tennessee.

The case at issue was Lisa Howe, et al. v. Bill Haslam. In that case, the plaintiffs alleged that a 2011 Act of the Tennessee General Assembly that added a definition of “sex” to the Tennessee Human Rights Act and created the Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act violated the Equal Protection guarantees of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. The Court of Appeals dismissed the case, holding that the acts did not violate either Constitution.

But the brouhaha — which could have very real implications for the LGBT community and every employer within the state of Tennessee — is not so much about the defeat of the case itself, but about the on-the-record language used by Gov. Bill Haslam as cited by the court.

Buried within the 23rd page of the appellate opinion, the text states, “the governor submits, ‘transsexual individuals are protected from discrimination on the basis of sex (including discrimination for failure to conform to gender stereotypes) by the THRA [Tennessee Human Rights Act] and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.’ ”

To read the full OpEd, click HERE.