LGBT rights in Tennessee

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LGBT rights in Tennessee
Tennessee (US)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1996
(Campbell v. Sundquist)
Gender identity/expression State does not alter sex on birth certificates for transsexual people
Discrimination protections None statewide
Family rights
Recognition of
None statewide
Same-sex marriage banned by the state constitution
Adoption No restrictions

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Tennessee face legal challenges non-LGBT residents do not. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Tennessee. Same-sex couples and families headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for all the protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Sodomy law[edit]

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled the state's sodomy statute unconstitutional in 1996 in the case of Campbell v. Sundquist.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]


Tennessee recognizes neither same-sex marriages nor any other form of legal recognition of same sex-unions. The state bans same-sex marriage and all other types of same-sex unions both by statute and by constitutional amendment.

Domestic partnership[edit]

Map of Tennessee counties and cities that offer domestic partner benefits either county-wide or in particular cities.
  City offers domestic partner benefits
  County-wide partner benefits through domestic partnership
  County or city does not offer domestic partner benefits

The cities of Collegedale[2] and Knoxville[3] together with the Metropolitan Area of Nashville and Davidson County[4][5] have enacted domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples.

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Tennessee allows single persons to adopt children. The state has no explicit prohibition on adoption by same-sex couples or second-parent adoptions.[6]

Discrimination protection[edit]

Map of Tennessee counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity solely in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

Tennessee law does not prohibit discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.[7]

The cities of Knoxville[8] and Memphis,[9] together with the Metropolitan Area of Nashville and Davidson County[10] have ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Tennessee Board of Regents[11] has established a policy of non-discrimination with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and for students, while the University of Tennessee System[12][13][14][15][16] covers sexual orientation only.

In response to Nashville's legislation, on May 12, 2011, the state Senate voted 20-8 in favor of the Equal Access to Interstate Commerce Act, which prohibits local governments from supplementing, modifying, or deviating from the state's anti-discriminatory definitions, laws, and practices. On May 18, 2011, the House of Representatives voted 70-26 in favor of the bill. On May 24, 2011, Governor Bill Haslam signed the bill into law.[17] LGBT rights activists brought a lawsuit in state court challenging the statute, Howe v. Haslam. They lost in the trial court and appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals which, on November 4, 2014, dismissed the suit after finding the plaintiffs lacked standing.[18]

On August 7, 2014, the city of Chattanooga voted 62.58% in favor of and 37.42% against a ballot initiative to repeal Ordinance 12781, an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for city employees.[19][20]

Hate crime[edit]

Tennessee law has punished hate crimes based on sexual orientation since 2001, but the law does not include hate crimes based on gender identity.[21]

Gender reassignment[edit]

In 1977, the Tennessee state legislature passed a birth certificate statute that prohibits the state from altering the sex on birth certificates for transsexual people.[22]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1996)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination state laws for sexual orientation No
Anti-discrimination state laws for gender identity or expression Yes/No Yes and no. It only covers employing state employees in certain cities
Hate crime laws include sexual orientation Yes/No Yes and no. It only covers employing state employees in certain cities
Hate crime laws include gender identity or expression Yes/No Yes and no. It only covers employing state employees in certain cities
Recognition in state law of same-sex couples as domestic partners Yes/No Yes and no. Benefits are given in a few cities
Step adoption by same-sex couples Yes
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Emblem-question.svg Not technically specified
Access to IVF for lesbians Emblem-question.svg Not technically specified
Same-sex marriages No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ American Psychological Association: Campbell v. Sundquist, 926 S.W.2d 255, accessed April 9, 2011
  2. ^ "Collegedale first TN city to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners". Aug 6, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Knoxville expanding employee benefits to same-sex, domestic partners". WBIR. October 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ Metro Council approves domestic partner benefits
  5. ^ Mayor Signs Domestic Partner Benefits Into Law
  6. ^ Human Rights Campaign: "Tennessee Adoption Law", accessed April 9, 2011
  7. ^ Williams Institute: "Tennessee – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Documentation of Discrimination," September 2009, accessed April 9, 2011
  8. ^ Witt, Gerald (May 1, 2012). "Knoxville City Council passes anti-discrimination ordinance". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Memphis includes gays under anti-discrimination". Knoxville News Sentinel. Associated Press. October 17, 2012. Retrieved October 17, 2012. The Memphis City Council has included sexual orientation and gender identity in an ordinance that bans discrimination in city hiring. 
  10. ^ "Statement of Non-Discrimination". Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Discrimination & Harassment - Complaint & Investigation Procedure : P-080". Tennessee Board of Regents. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  12. ^ "EEO/AA Statement /Non-Discrimination Statement". University of Tennessee. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  13. ^ "File a Complaint". University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  14. ^ "Office of Equity & Diversity". University of Tennessee at Martin. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  15. ^ "UTHSC Office of Equity and Diversity". University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  16. ^ "EEO/AA Statement /Non-Discrimination Statement". University of Tennessee Space Institute. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  17. ^ Equal Access to Interstate Commerce Act
  18. ^ "Civil Litigation - Tennessee". Lesbian / Gay Law Notes (New York Law School): 510–511. December 2014. 
  19. ^ "City Council Passes Controversial Domestic Partners Ordinance". The Chattanoogan. November 12, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Domestic Partners Benefit Ordinance Loses". The Chattanoogan. August 7, 2014. 
  21. ^ Tennessee Hate Crimes Law at Human Rights Campaign.
  22. ^ "Transgender Legal History". Retrieved 2013-10-22. 

External links[edit]