Tennessee Governor Signs Bathroom Bill

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has signed multiple bills targeting transgender individuals this year.
Twitter/Bill Lee

Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee signed a bill on May 14 targeting bathroom and locker room access for transgender students and threatening lawsuits against those who dare violate the legislation.

The “Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act” allows individuals to sue a public school if they encounter “a person of the opposite sex” in a multi-occupancy school bathroom, locker room, or if they are required to dorm with a person of another gender during a school trip. This bill purports to provide reasonable accommodation to any student who does not want to use a multi-stalled restroom or changing facility.

According to the bill’s text, schools will face legal consequences if they “intentionally allowed a member of the opposite sex to enter the multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility while other persons were present.”

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David slammed legislators for implementing this law.

“By advancing hateful legislation like HB 1233 (SB 1367), Tennessee Governor Lee and state legislators are using their power to harm and further stigmatize trans youth in Tennessee,” David said in a written statement. “The state of Tennessee is quickly becoming a national leader for anti-LGBTQ legislation, as lawmakers would rather discriminate against LGBTQ youth than focus on real problems facing Tennesseans.”

David continued, “I want to be clear: Governor Lee’s shameful decision to sign this baseless and discriminatory bill into law will harm the health and well-being of trans students in Tennessee by creating daily degrading experiences for them at school. These ‘Slate of Hate’ bills are unjustifiable and must stop.”

Just days earlier, legislators in Tennessee also sent the governor HB1182, a bill demanding that businesses post a sign if they allow trans folks to use the bathroom. The state also took aim at transgender student-athletes with legislation earlier this year by imposing a ban transgender people from participating in sports.

The wave of bills comes against a backdrop of anti-trans legislation spreading far beyond the confines of Tennessee. Numerous states have moved to restrict transgender individuals in sports and healthcare during a legislative session that has been particularly devastating for the nation’s transgender community. Among other recent developments, a Texas bill targeting transgender student-athletes failed to secure enough votes in the House committee, but resurfaced as a new bill requiring public school students to participate in sports on the basis of “biological sex.” Equality Texas, an LGBTQ advocacy group, ripped State Representative Harold Dutton for reviving the bill.

“He knows SB 29 will hurt kids. He further stated that he brought this bill up and voted for it in retribution against his colleagues,” Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas, said in a written statement. “This bill as substituted, with its six-year sunset, tells any transgender middle schooler that they have no chance at full participation in their school communities. We are already hearing from parents of transgender children who now realize their kids’ lives and dignity were used as a legislative bargaining chip.”

Meanwhile, a bill in Alabama that would prohibit transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming medical care has been postponed indefinitely. This comes after advocates at Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, and the international law firm Cooley LLP threatened to take legal action.

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