Tennessee Parental Rights Bill Advances

The Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville

This week, a bill in Tennessee to protect parental rights faced a highly contested subcommittee vote…and passed!

House Bill 2936, the Family Rights and Responsibilities Act, was scheduled for a vote in the Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee of the Tennessee House on Tuesday, March 19. Opposing the bill were the usual suspects—teachers unions and the like. But it also faced opposition from an influential conservative who misunderstood the effects of the bill.

HB 2936 provides that parental rights are fundamental, and that they can only be infringed to further a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means. (That is, it requires strict judicial scrutiny.) It also outlines certain specific rights, including the right to information from a child’s school or medical provider. Finally, it provides a “private right of action,” whereby a parent whose rights are violated can sue the government agent or agency who caused the violation.

If passed, it will be one of the best parental rights laws in the nation.

But things looked a little shaky going into Tuesday’s meeting.

So, first we sent a letter to all the members of the subcommittee explaining to them why the Parental Rights Foundation supports this bill.

Then, we alerted our supporters in Tennessee and asked them to contact the members, as well.

And when Tuesday’s meeting rolled around, the bill passed on a voice vote, with only two members requested to be recorded as voting “No.” Perhaps others also voted “No” but didn’t see a need to be recorded as such. It is also possible that as many as seven members on the nine-member committee voted “Yes.”

Either way, the bill is now scheduled for consideration in the House Civil Justice Committee. A meeting time for that consideration has not yet been set.

A companion bill, SB 2749, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 27 by a vote of 6 to 2 and is now waiting on the Senate Calendar Committee.

Rep. Jeremy Faison is the sponsor of HB 2936 and Sen. Ferrell Haile is the sponsor of the Senate companion bill.

While the bills still have a way to go before the legislature adjourns on April 25, this week’s vote in the House subcommittee was a major step toward seeing the Family Rights and Responsibilities Act become Tennessee law.

Thank you to all of you in Tennessee who called or emailed this week to push for this positive outcome. 

And I thank all of you for your ongoing support of our parental rights efforts across the nation. We simply would not be seeing victories like this one without you.