‘Natural and ordinary’ bill approved, brings LGBT complaints to deferring Haslam

Excerpt from an Associated Press report:

Words in state law must be interpreted as having “natural and ordinary meaning” under a bill passed by the Tennessee Senate on Thursday. Critics call it a sneaky way of encouraging state judges to deny rights to same-sex couples and transgender people.

LGBT groups lamented the 23-6 vote and immediately began prodding Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for a veto, but his spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said he is “deferred to the will of the legislature.” The House approved the same legislation last month.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the national LGBT rights group GLAAD, said the bill would be bad for business and “set a dangerous precedent that could place the well-being of LGBTQ Tennesseans in jeopardy.”

The legislation (SB1085) has been pushed by the Family Action Council of Tennessee, which advocates for one-man, one-woman marriage.

A different bill (HB33) that gained no traction explicitly cited “husband,” ”wife,” ”mother,” and “father” as having natural and ordinary meanings based on the biological distinctions between men and women. The measure that passed avoids those specifics, and merely states that any word undefined in state law must be used according to its “natural and ordinary meaning.”

The measure addresses questions raised in a same-sex child custody case in Knoxville, in which the Family Action Council tried to intervene on behalf of 53 state lawmakers, only to be rejected by the circuit court judge.

… The legislation passed despite concerns raised by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery of potential conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling, as well as state law that requires gender-specific words to be interpreted as inclusive. (Previous post HERE.)

Slatery’s opinion predicted that judges would side with the gender-inclusive interpretation given the clashing requirements. He took the same position when he weighed in on the same-sex custody case, urging that judge to interpret “husband” and “wife” gender-neutrally, as “spouse.”

That case hinged on the wording of a 1977 state law, which says that a person born through artificial insemination with the consent of both husband and wife will be their legitimate child. The attorney general urged the judge to apply the law to same-sex marriages.

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