My name is Gabriel Biser. I live in Chattanooga, and I am a happily married gay man. I own my home, where I live with my husband, our three dogs, my parents, and their two dogs. We moved to Tennessee in November of 2015 for work and loved it here so much we never looked back. I love Chattanooga, and I love my adopted state of Tennessee. You couldn’t pay me to go back to living in the Silicon Valley of California.
However, there are five bills making their way through the House that would severely impact my family, and many people I love and care about. The first being the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act”, or HB 1369/ SB 1282. My husband David and I were married July 23, 2015 in San Jose, Ca. While our love cannot and will not be affected by a piece of paper, that piece of paper allows us certain protections under the law. While I certainly respect someone’s right to practice their religion, the views of that religion should not be weaponized and forced upon people. My marriage should not be up for approval by committee. It is nobody’s business what goes on in my marriage any more than it is my business what goes on in theirs.
I love my husband as much as a person can possibly love somebody, and to refer to our relationship as a “sham” is both blatantly homophobic and morally reprehensible. Besides, this is law that has been settled at the federal level in Obergefell Vs. Hedges, which effectively overturned the ban against same-sex marriages in Tennessee on June 26, 2015. We have an opportunity in Tennessee to show the country and the world that we embrace diversity, and don’t shun it or force it back into a closet. A year and a half ago, I injured myself while at work in South Carolina and was sent to the hospital by ambulance. I listed my husband on my HIPAA form, however the hospital refused to release information to him. My mother called (who was not on the HIPAA form) and they told her everything. Discrimination is real, and these protections are critical for estate planning, insurance, medical issues, and so much more. This is an issue more than a piece of paper.
The second bill is SB 264/HB 563. This bill would allow businesses to discriminate against people based upon their sexual orientation. If this bill is signed into law, we may as well tell the world we are returning to the Jim Crow era of the south where “Whites Only”, or “No Negroes” or “Colored” signs told people where they can and cannot go. This is discrimination, plain and simple. I work in the mortgage industry, and I work with people every day whom I may not agree with, or in some cases even like. However, if I don’t underwrite that loan, I don’t get paid. This bill would also allow my taxes to support businesses that would discriminate against me. How fair is that? I understand the need to deny service from time to time, however I do not deny someone service because I don’t agree with them politically, or religiously. If I did that, I would never have any clients! We are all different in this world and that is what makes it such an amazing place. We can’t allow ourselves to return to the Tennessee of 50 years ago. That is not making America great again.
The third bill is SB 1499/HB 1272. It would require that the Tennessee Attorney General to pay for the legal costs to defend themselves against anti-transgender policies in our schools. This places pressure on our schools to continue to force transgendered children to use the bathroom according to their biological gender, not the one they associate with. This places these children in danger of harassment, bullying, and physical violence. As we have seen in the news, the only sexual abuse, that has occurred with transgendered children using the bathroom they associate their gender with has been at the hands of school officials. There has not been one documented case of a transgender child abusing another child in a school bathroom. There have been plenty of documented cased however, describing the opposite. This bill is rooted in fear, and hate and should not be allowed to pass.
This bill also corresponds with SB 1297/HB 1151 which seeks to criminalize the use of a bathroom other than what corresponds to ones biological gender. This is blatantly discriminatory to thousands of Tennesseans, who identify as transgender, or non-binary. The only attacks in bathrooms have been from Cis-Gendered people assaulting transgendered people. Not the other way around. They are under attack. All they are trying to do is use the bathroom, plain and simple. Using a restroom should not be made a criminal offense. Mind your business, do what you have to do and get out of there and go on with your day. Plain and simple.
Finally, we come to SB 1034/HB 1152. These bills would turn away qualified Tennesseans from adopting children based on their faith, marital status, if they have been previously divorced, if they are LGBTQ+, or simply because they do not agree with one’s religion. While I agree it is imperative we properly vet people we trust children in foster care or adoption with, the above criteria should have nothing to do with it. These faith-based agencies would be using public funds to openly discriminate against anyone who doesn’t fit their mold. There are far too many children in need of a home, and plenty of loving homes for them to go into, but they will never get there if this is allowed to pass. This hits particularly close to home, as we planned on adopting our children. This bill would prohibit us from doing so, and would not allow us to have the family we dreamed of.
At the heart of all of these bills the sponsors are hiding their prejudice behind the thin veil of “religious freedom”. I am a Christian man myself, and nowhere in the Bible does Jesus command us to do these things. In fact, he commands us to do the opposite. We are to love and treat our neighbors as we love and treat ourselves. These bills have nothing to do with someone’s religion, but they have everything to do with their personal prejudice, bias, and fear. We are a state of many religions, and no one religion should be placed in higher importance than another. Diversity is what makes us strong, and instead of dividing us, we need laws to protect and bring us together. Instead of punishing social and ethnic minorities we need to focus on how to unify us. We all have the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is not a right granted solely to evangelical Christians. There is a group of people who are forcing their lifestyle onto others, however it is not the LGBTQ+ community. It is the evangelical Christians. I can’t take the gay off at the end of the day and hang it up in the closet before I go to bed. I was born the way that I am. Homosexuality is not a learned behavior and is not a “lifestyle”. Religion is far more of a “lifestyle choice” than your sexuality because you have the freedom to change your religion or congregation or church at any time. Yes, the LGBTQ+ has events such as Pride where we are loud and brash but that is to show that we are here, and we need representation as well. We are Tennesseans as well, and we are not going anywhere.
The Tennessee I have grown to love, the Tennessee with friendly welcoming neighbors, the Chattanooga that comes together as one when tragedy strikes, the Tennessee where people care about one another is better than the above proposed legislation. To allow these bills to pass would not only show the world that Tennessee openly welcomes discrimination, but it is a slap in the face to our very culture, and a dis-service to all Tennesseans who just want to live and let live. We can show the country that people can practice their religion as they choose and coexist with people who share different beliefs. We can show the world the Tennessee that I have fallen in love with and despite its challenges have decided to raise a family here. If law does not prohibit it. I urge you to contact your representatives and speak with them about these hateful bills.
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Thank you for speaking out on the collection of issues you've addressed. I'm sure that it's not easy to step into the public eye on a matter that is so personal for yourself, and so controversial for the community at large. I support the positions you advocate regarding these bills. Many of us in this community agree with you.
It is those that disagree with you, Mr. Biser, that I struggle to understand. Certainly I can comprehend why there are those who are offended by same-sex marriage and the minutia of legislation to integrate such families into our society. Change is always difficult. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand how such people justify their arguments by citing their Christian faith.
The teachings of Christ are undeniably about love, compassion, charity, and forgiveness for our fellow man. Why undermine all of this for a few lines from Leviticus, tucked in with old-testament law regarding how to treat slaves, sounding trumpets for Yom Kippur, and requirements of priests covering their heads?
You tell us that you are Christian man, Mr. Biser. I suppose there might be those reading your letter who would scoff at the notion. But while others cherry-pick from archaic code to condemn you, I ask that you look to my favorite part of the Bible, the beatitudes, which Jesus himself spoke into law, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
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What a wonderfully classy name, Gabriel. I would never shorten than name to Gabe. I know, beside the point.
I enjoy reading new and different perspectives, well written ones, I might add.
While I enjoyed reading your perspective, I am repelled by folks that use the term homophobic and racist like a dagger or weapon. You can never know what is in the hearts of others or what they have experienced in their life’s journey. Weaponizing divisive language, such as homophobic, is unproductive. Sadly, using these divisive labels for everyone that disagrees with you grows more division, and is self-defeating to your position of what you are trying to achieve.
First, most everyone has a gay family member or friend. As many my age, we lost so many we loved in a storm of death in the 1980’s. I also lost friends and a family member. We loved our family and friends regardless of their sexuality. At the same time, no one asked us to celebrate their sexuality as a special class. We just all loved each other.
None of us as human beings are defined by our sexuality. It is a small part of us, not the whole person. So, when people enter educational systems, the workplace, or anywhere for that matter, professionally speaking, we should never wear our sexuality as a banner. It is distractive, and contrary to a healthy education experience and workplace.
If being gay is a sinful act, there is certainly none of us without sin.
Gabriel, I would encourage you to place the weaponized term, homophobic, out of your language for good. The term simply grows division. The state of Tennessee House of Representatives is not homophobic. Please consider rejecting that entirely subjective notion. You are calling people homophobic for introducing legislation you disagree with, surely you are above that.
Here is the rub about the House Bills you have expressed concerns about, the new politically gay believes that their sexuality must permeate all spaces as an ideology that everyone must adhere to and agree with.
Try to understand, I write this with nothing but good thoughts for you and your husband. You are exercising your own freedoms in speech, religious freedom, lifestyle, and everything that makes our nation a gift from God. The rub is that the new political gay demands that every citizen agree with your decisions and ideology, or else.
Not everyone has to agree with a gay lifestyle, they are allowed as citizens to exercise the same freedoms that you enjoy, as cited above. Many do not agree with gay marriage. Like it or not, that is the price of freedom, and no one is mandated to agree with or adopt the policies of the new gay political movement.
I would like great limited government and no regulation for our nation to have natural balance, but some wish for socialism. Only about 20 percent of people, would agree with me.
What shall I call them?
In short, your ideology does not trump the rights of others to reject your ideology. I feel that the new gay political view is agree with us, or else.
An individual’s rights end, when they attempt to forcefully mandate and impose views on others.
Please respect the rights of others to disagree with you without using the term, homophobic, like a weapon.
Many of these House Bills are protections for rights of children, so with respect to you I would ask you the following.
1) Why should young girls have to give up their rights to single gender restrooms? Someone with male anatomy in a female restroom disturbs many people.
2) What if a child did not agree with homosexuality, should they be forced to live in a household that practices homosexuality?
We are seeing the same attitude of agree with us, or else from the Vegans. I am not giving up prime rib with horse radish sauce. It is a freedom I enjoy, a choice.
The point is the new political gay insists that others relinquish their rights, and that is the rub.
Again, I enjoyed your letter, and think that you should consider the perspective of others, and examine what freedoms you are asking others to relinquish to achieve your objective. You will never legislate or force the change the hearts of others though with divisive name calling.
I will work to limit my own chronic use of the terms, “raging liberal, zealot liberal, the Moneycrats, leftie, ….”
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In reference to your article, especially concerning the Bible, I'm pretty sure it spoke of Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Furthermore, your mention of transgender, I believe God made everyone for whom they are, for anyone to change themselves, they're basically saying God made a mistake and God makes no mistakes, period.
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It seems everybody these days are a Christian and yet they choose to live anyway they seem fit.
Gods Holy Word is very clear on homosexuality , from Genesis to New Testament.
God made Adam and then Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply.
You say you were born having a lust for men instead of a woman. I will agree with you on that. All man is born into sin. It’s the curse on fallen man (Adam).
I fall short everyday of Gods righteousness but where I sin , Gods Grace increases. I believe and have confessed and asked Jesus to be my redeemer.
I’m His. I’m not my own. As Paul said “ I have to beat my body into submission “.
I have desires too but being a slave of Christ I cannot fulfill those evil desires. All sin , greed, adultery, anger. The list goes on.
I can promise you this. After we die and are before thee Lord a millisecond later , no one gets a mulligan short of a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.
If one is not in Christ he or she will be told to depart from Him.
A true child of God cannot chose to live in their sin.
They are a new creature in Christ striving to obey Him in His calling them for His purpose.
There ain’t no social justice on judgement day.
God never changes. He has spoken.
It’s not the ones who hear God’s Word but it’s the people who obey it.
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Thank you Mr. Biser for shedding a true light on these truly hateful, discriminatory bills that are about nothing other than attempting to relegate the LGBTQ community back to 2nd Class Citizens. It has nothing to do with anything other than hate.
Hate is what these right wing, evangelicals hide behind their hand-selected, self-interpreted Bible verses. They to put our community into a hole. They try to hide their prejudices and bigotry behind what they, their hate-fueled pastors, and fellow church members, think the Lord or Jesus has said. In reality, Jesus never spoke about homosexuality. Not one word in the New Testament mentions it. In fact, through Jesus’ love and sacrifice, all are forgiven and the Old Testament is but a history book. I would love to see the actual Theology degrees these “pastors” have. If they even exist. Had they went to Seminary, which is doubtful, they would have learned the truth.
Our marriages are not up for discussion. We are legal by Federal Supreme Court ruling. We want nothing but equality. Our rights to equal protections and treatments under the laws of our great land are not special. Equal is not special. Special rights would be like all these churches not paying taxes that continually jump into the political fold, public schools, and all manner of issues from LGBTQ rights, to women’s reproductive rights. Religious Freedom is for you, as an individual, family, etc., to practice your religion how you see fit. It is not to try and use your religion as a weapon or as a reason to keep other people, who you don’t agree with, in a box or a cell, or outlawed. We deserve and demand equality. Your small-minded, extinct, backwoods views are no longer relevant. Your opinion on things that do not impact you, directly, do not matter. Stay out of our bedrooms like we stay out of your’s. Since all these religious organizations and churches want to keep jumping into politics, you need to pay taxes.
As far as the whole restroom thing: just get over it. Anyone who is truly transgendered and needs to use the restroom, can. You have been sharing a restroom without knowing for decades. Trust me when I say that a true transgendered person will not go after minors and will not attack anyone. Statistics show that the majority of assaults on minors are done by heterosexual identifying males. Your own bathroom in your home has been unisex forever. Same concept. I pray for your family members that might be questioning their sexuality and or gender. With your vitriol, they are pushed further into the closet. They may never survive. Thinking this this is archaic and one of the main reasons for the massive spike in LGBTQ youth committing suicide. Hope your religious conscience lets you sleep at night.
As for homophobia, you aren’t scared, which is what a phobia is. Homophobia really boils down to you being a jerk. Actually, it can be simplified. Homophobia is also that you’re scared that a man might treat you, a heterosexual man, for instance, in the same manner you might treat a woman. As an object only without relevance. Shame on you. If it has no bearing on you, then don’t participate. We don’t mind. We do fine on our own.
Richard and Thomas Hendricks Smith
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I read this piece several times because my grey matter has been rode hard and hung up wet as many times as I can remember and, you know, that takes a toll on a boy. So for simplicity for a simple mind, I summarized the bills, as Mr. Biser described them (have not studied the actual bills), so that I could get a big, easy, picture. Spoiler alert- my reasoning is founded on Ray Stevens's conclusion that "Everybody's beautiful, in his own way..."
Correct me if I'm wrong but according to my interpretation of Mr. Biser, I think the bills go like this:
Bill 1: Regardless what the Feds say, in Tennessee same sex people can't marry and if a married gay from another state gets partially smacked by a beer truck, his spouse who pays part of his health insurance premiums has to wait until the possibly estranged next of kin shows up before he learns whether or not his husband will live or die.
Bill 2: Businesses don’t have to deal with homosexuals if their religion tells them not to.
Bill 3: The Tennessee Attorney General has to pay his own salary if somebody sues the State for their transgender bathroom policies.
Bill 4: If you get caught with junk in a girls room, you go to jail.
Bill 5: Jews, Muslims, Catholics, single people, divorced people who’ve remarried and all LGBTQ’s can’t adopt children.
Thankfully, I have lived almost 60 years as a southern white boy and I've learned a thing or two. First, our planet is older than 7,000 years and nobody but nobody knows exactly what God thinks. This religious talk is mean and these bills are moronic. Surely there's a Constitutional or Bill of Rights factor in all of these bills. How can Bill 3 be anything but State sanctioned discrimination? So I really don't get them and this straight, registered Republican will never vote for anything like this. Got to figure out Bill 4 but all five are slaps in Jesus's face if you ask me.
I'm not going along with anything proposed by Hillary, Bernie, AOC, Warren (except busting up tech giants- I like that), Pelosi, Schumer, etc., or anything associated with the crazy left. There again, I'll not be a part of anything mean and hard right either. Period. Not gonna do it. Thank you, Mr. Biser, for alerting me. I'll now know what to look for.
So in case you didn't know by now, my Volunteer vote on these bills will be cast with similarly red necked lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and queers. We're all from this great State of Tennessee. We don't need laws like these.
Savage Glascock, Sr.
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Mr. Gabe Bise,
Look at things through the eyes of some of the other people your life choices impact. As the general public has to do every day.
#1 SB 1499/HB 1272. SB 1297/HB 1151 I'm sorry if you can't make up your mind what sex you want to be. I care less about who you sleep with, marry or chose to live your life with. That's your choice. But when you have male parts and go into a female bathroom with one of my daughters, granddaughters, wife or sisters it's my business. With the sick people in today's world, this would open up a whole new way for sick child molesters, rapist and all the other criminals who prey on kids and women to have an open invitation to go in and do what they want. I'm not trying to say you or any other gay person is a sick-minded person, this has nothing to do with a gay person. It's just opening up a new threat on our families. I have gay people in my family so, no, it's not about being gay. If you want to go and have your parts taken off and become a female, well that again is your choice and a whole new ball game. So for now while you're out in public, use the one that fits your parts.
#2 SB 264/HB 563 As a business owner I should have the right to hire and fire who I want if they don't fit in my business or if they cost me money because they want to be different in public. Not that being different is bad, but when you cost my family money or business because of your choices in life then, sorry, bye.
#3 SB 1034/HB 1152, I'm not real sure about this one because as long as it doesn't hurt a child? But I do feel it may have an impact in the later years. So I just don't know at this time if it's good or bad.