NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Top Tennessee Republicans on Friday vowed to push for some of the strictest anti-transgender policies in the United States at a rally Friday, where hundreds of people cheered in support as LGBTQ rights activists yelled back in protest.
The rally comes nearly a month after video surfaced of a doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center stating that gender-affirming procedures are “huge money makers” for hospitals. Another staffer was shown saying anyone with a religious objection should quit.
The videos quickly sparked outrage among GOP lawmakers, many of whom are running for reelection this year, who quickly called for an investigation into Nashville hospital — though no law enforcement agency has confirmed doing so. Meanwhile, VUMC says they've provided on average five gender affirming surgeries to minors over the age of 16 — none younger — every year since its transgender clinic opened in 2018 but they have since paused those procedures to review their policies.
On Friday, Tennessee state Rep. William Lamberth and Sen. Jack Johnson, the GOP majority leaders of the House and Senate, promised that the first bill to be introduced for the upcoming 2023 session would be a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.
“We will get it done, you have our word,” Johnson told the crowd.
Other speakers included Republican U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, conservative commentator Matt Walsh, and former congressional candidate Robby Starbuck. The majority of the speakers chastised and mocked those who booed and audibly disagreed.
Several members of the Proud Boys, a far right extremist group, also were in attendance. Some signs held by attendees called for the murder of doctors who provided gender-affirming care to minors. Many exchanged expletives, others attempted to drown out the speakers by playing music and turning on sirens.
Tennessee has gained attention over the years for introducing and enacting more anti-LGBTQ legislation than any other state. That trend shows no signs of stopping due to the release of the leaked VUMC videos.
Such proposals are almost certainly expected to be challenged in court. A federal judge has already blocked a law prohibiting doctors from offering gender-confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old. Meanwhile, a similar law was blocked in Alabama back in May. Both cases remain ongoing.
In 2021, Lee signed legislation banning doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment to prepubescent minors. To date, no one has legally challenged the law as medical experts maintain no doctor in Tennessee does so.
Kimberlee Kruesi, The Associated Press