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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Tennesseans face some legal challenges that non-LGBT Tennesseans do not. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in the state. Marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples in Tennessee since the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015.

Map of USA TN.svg
StatusLegal since 1996
(Campbell v. Sundquist)
Gender identityVital Records Act of 1977
Discrimination protectionsNone at the state level
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage is recognized statewide since 2015
AdoptionLegal since 2007


Sodomy lawEdit

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

Recognition of same-sex relationshipsEdit


Prior to being overturned, Tennessee recognized neither same-sex marriages nor any other form of legal recognition of same sex-unions. The state banned same-sex marriage both by statute and by constitutional amendment. That ban was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 26, 2015.

House Bill 1111Edit

Domestic partnershipEdit

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. The Chattanooga City Council voted to allow domestic partnerships in 2013, but this was repealed by voters in August 2014.[6] However, same-sex marriages have been available throughout Tennessee since the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling overturning same-sex marriage bans nationwide.

Adoption and parentingEdit

Tennessee allows single persons to adopt children. Same-sex couples may legally adopt in the state. In 2007, the Tennessee Attorney General released an opinion that adoption by same-sex couples was not prohibited by state statute, and could be done if in the child's best interest.[7][8]

Discrimination protectionsEdit

Map of Tennessee counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances circa 2016
  Sexual orientation and gender identity solely in public employment
  Sexual orientation 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 and gender identity.[9]

The cities of Knoxville,[10] Memphis,[11] Franklin, Chattanooga[6] and the Metropolitan Area of Nashville and Davidson County[12] have ordinances prohibiting discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but these ordinances do not apply to private employers.[13]

HB 563Edit

This "local preemption" bill would prevent government agencies from examining a business's anti-discrimination policies when deciding whether to hire that business for a taxpayer-funded contract. A scheduled vote in the Tennessee House was rescheduled from March 14, 2019 to March 21.[14]

Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce ActEdit

Senate Bill 1556Edit

EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral HomesEdit

On March 7, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee) ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against transgender people under the category of sex. It also ruled that employers may not use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to justify discrimination against LGBT people. Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman, began working for a funeral home and presented as male. In 2013, she told her boss that she was transgender and planned to transition. She was promptly fired by her boss who said that "gender transition violat[es] God’s commands because a person’s sex is an immutable God-given fit."[15] With this decision, discrimination in the workplace based on gender identity is now banned in Tennessee. An appeal to the case is set to be heard by the Supreme Court in the 2019 term under R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Hate crime lawEdit

Tennessee law has punished hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation since 2001, but the law does not include gender identity, though it is covered by federal law.[16] It was reported by the Tennessee Attorney-General in February 2019 that hate crime laws implicitly cover gender identity, because gender or sex is explicitly covered in Tennessee hate crime legislation - a legal first for a southern US state.[17][18]

Gender identity and expressionEdit

In 1977, the Tennessee state legislature passed a birth certificate statute that prohibits the state from altering the sex on birth certificate.[19]

Summary tableEdit

Same-sex sexual activity legal   (since 1996)
Equal age of consent  
Anti-discrimination state laws for sexual orientation  
Anti-discrimination state laws for gender identity or expression  /  (Since 2018 for employment, under EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes)
Hate crime laws include sexual orientation  
Hate crime laws include gender identity or expression   (Implicitly since 2019)[17][18]
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples  
Joint adoption by same-sex couples  
Access to IVF for lesbians   (Not technically specified)
Right to change legal gender  
Same-sex marriages  
MSMs allowed to donate blood  /  (One year deferral - federal policy)

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ a b "Chattanooga City Council passes much-debated anti-discrimination ordinance". 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  7. ^ Human Rights Campaign: "Tennessee Adoption Law" Archived 2011-06-07 at the Wayback Machine, accessed April 9, 2011
  8. ^
  9. ^ State of Tennessee "Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act", accessed June 17, 2016
  10. ^ Witt, Gerald (May 1, 2012). "Knoxville City Council passes anti-discrimination ordinance". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ "Statement of Non-Discrimination". Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  13. ^ Ridley, Jim (May 26, 2011). "By giving his approval to the noxious HB600, Gov. Bill Haslam sells out Tennessee to a far-right agenda". Nashville Scene. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  14. ^ "Tennessee General Assembly » Legislation (Development)". Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  15. ^ "Businesses Can't Fire Trans Employees for Religious Reasons, Federal Appeals Court Rules in Landmark Decision". Slate. March 7, 2018.
  16. ^ Tennessee Hate Crimes Law at Human Rights Campaign.
  17. ^ a b [1]
  18. ^ a b [2]
  19. ^ "Transgender Legal History". Retrieved 2013-10-22.

External linksEdit