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Gov. Haslam Defunds & Disbands UT Office of Diversity after Controversy at School’s Pride Center

by Hayley Miller May 21, 2016

The University of Tennessee (UT) is disbanding it's Office of Diversity after legislation defunding it became law on Friday. The law prevents the institution from spending state funds "to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns, to promote or inhibit the celebration of religious holidays, or to fund or support sex week."

The controversy on UT’s campus began in August when, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, UT Pride Center sent out a newsletter suggesting that staff do more to learn students' preferred names and pronouns to be more inclusive of LGBT students.

“The newsletter said not everyone thinks in traditional male-female terms and may not identify with the gender listed for them on class rosters, generated by student information systems,” Knoxville News Sentinel explained. “Conservatives went ballistic, demanded the diversity office be ‘defunded’ and lawmakers scheduled a Nashville hearing in the fall.”

When the Tennessee legislature reconvened in January, legislation was introduced to defund similar programs and steer clear of initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion.

“The compromise…divert(s) money from the diversity office into scholarships for one year only and banning the use of state funds for sex week, which UT had already done,”Knoxville News Sentinel continued. “The House approved the final version 63-21, the Senate 27-3.”

The bill became law today without the governor’s signature.

This isn’t the only anti-LGBT to become law in Tennessee this legislative session. On April 28, Gov. Haslam signed into law the "Counseling Discrimination Bill," SB 1556, which allows a licensed counselor in a private practice to use personal or religious beliefs as an excuse to terminate care or refer away LGBT clients, as long as they refer the client to another counselor.

These bills are just two of nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills that have been introduced in 35 states this session, making them part of a much greater onslaught of anti-LGBT billsbeing pushed this year by anti-equality activists around the country.

Hayley Miller
Hayley Miller


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