Legislation passed to protect children and family values: 2021 – 2024

Prohibiting gender transition surgeries and irreversible hormone treatments for minors 

  • I and other Tennessee Republican lawmakers have been at the forefront of the fight to stop hormone  treatments in children to change their gender identity.  
  • Tennessee led the nation when we took our first steps to ban hormone treatment for children in 2021. (Public Chapter 460, 2021).
  • Since then, we have expanded those efforts and now under current law, medical “transition” surgeries that remove body parts to enable the minor to identify as a gender different from their biological sex are banned. (Public Chapter 1, 2023)
  • Our law also bans administering hormones to minors to treat gender dysphoria. 
  • The law ensures that doctors can still prescribe hormone treatment to minors for medically necessary purposes and makes exceptions for children born with chromosomal anomalies or congenital defects. 

Protecting children from sexually explicit performances 

  • A 2023 law prohibited sexually explicit adult entertainment from being performed in front of children or where children could be present. (Public Chapter 2, 2023)
    • The law banned obscene performances from taking place in public parks or private venues that are non-age-restricted
  • Any establishment that chooses to have sexually explicit shows must require proof of age to enter to ensure patrons are 18 years or older.
  • A violation of this bill would result in a Class A misdemeanor and a second or subsequent offense would result in a Class E felony.

Protecting children from harmful online content

  • The Protecting Children from Social Media Act restores parental authority online by requiring social media companies to verify the ages of account holders and obtain parental consent for minors to create a social media account. (Public Chapter 899, 2024)
  • To curb access to online pornography for minors, The Protect Tennessee Minors Act requires online media companies and operators to verify users’ ages in order to access sites with explicit adult content. (Public Chapter 1021, 2024)

Safeguarding parental authority

  • To protect children from being indoctrinated by ideologies in conflict with the values taught by their parents, the Family Rights and Responsibilities Act explicitly outlines the twelve fundamental rights of parents, including the responsibilities to make education, healthcare, moral and religious decisions for their child. (Public Chapter 1061, 2024)
  • A law requires schools to notify parents if their child asks for accommodations in school to affirm their gender identity. (Public Chapter 832, 2024)
  • Created a Class C felony for knowingly taking a minor across state lines without parental consent in order for the minor to receive a medical procedure prohibited in Tennessee. (Public Chapter 1064, 2024)

The Age-Appropriate Materials Act 

  • The Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022 increased transparency and oversight of instructional materials and literature used in public schools. (Public Chapter 744, 2022)
  • It requires public schools to: 
    • Post online a list of the materials in their libraries
    • Have a standardized review framework to ensure school library collections are periodically evaluated for age-appropriateness. 
  • If a school should find a material is not age-appropriate based on student, parental or employee feedback, then the school would have to remove it.
  • In 2023, an additional step was added to the process of evaluating materials in school libraries by requiring complaints to first go to the local school district for resolution prior to going to the local board of education for review. (Public Chapter 472, 2023)
  • This year we continued to strengthen the law and
    • clarified that obscene materials must be kept from public school libraries (Senate Bill 1060, 2024)
    • Established that parents have standing to file civil action against their LEA to enforce the Age-Appropriate Materials Act (Senate Bill 1858, 2024)

Keeping inappropriate material out of public schools 

  • In 2023, we passed a law making it a Class E felony offense to knowingly sell or distribute obscene material to a public school. (Public Chapter 278, 2023)
  • In 2022, a law was passed that required the State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission to issue guidance for LEAs and charter schools to use when reviewing materials in a library to ensure that the materials are appropriate for the age and maturity levels of the students who will access them. (Public Chapter 1137, 2022) 

Blocking obscene materials on school computers 

  • This law requires vendors to take steps to block inappropriate content on school computers. (Public Chapter 1002, 2022)
    • If failure to comply, then a LEA may withhold further payments to the provider and ultimately consider non-compliance a breach of contract.

Protecting free speech in schools regarding use of “preferred” pronouns

  • This law prevents teachers and school districts from being held civilly liable if they refuse to use pronouns inconsistent with a student’s biological sex. (Public Chapter 448, 2023)
  • Furthermore, schools and school districts cannot bring disciplinary or adverse employment action against a teacher if they choose to use pronouns consistent with a student’s biological sex. 

Ensuring fairness in girls’ sports

  • For many years, we have advanced efforts to protect girls’ and women’s sports by prohibiting biological males from competing in female sports. 
  • Due to these legislative efforts, since 2023 biological males have been prohibited from competing in Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) girls sports at both public AND private schools. (Public Chapter 285, 2023)
    • Girls can compete in boys’ sports if there is no girls’ team at the school.
  • This work began in 2021, when legislation was approved to protect girls’ sports by ensuring students compete in athletic competitions that correspond with their sex at birth. (Public Chapter 40, 2021)
  • The next year,we further clarified the law and passed legislation to prohibit biological males from participating in girls’ sports in public K-12 education institutions. (Public Chapter 909, 2022)
    • If a middle or high school failed to comply, a portion of state funds would be withheld
  • Also in 2022, a law was passed to prohibit biological males from competing in womens’ sports on the collegiate level. (Public Chapter 1005, 2022) 

Biological sex clarified in law

  • In Tennessee code “sex” is defined as a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth and evidence of their biological sex.
    • According to the law, evidence of a person’s biological sex includes government-issued identification that accurately reflects a person’s sex listed on their original birth certificate. (Public Chapter 486, 2023)

Protecting religious beliefs of marriage officiants

  • A law clarifies that any marriage officiant has the option to object to solemnizing marriages based on their personal or religious beliefs. (Public Chapter 511, 2024)