Tennessee governor signs controversial bathroom bill into law

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a so-called controversial bathroom bill into law Friday, according to the state General Assembly website, prompting criticism from those who say the bill is discriminatory toward transgender individuals.

The Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act — also known as House Bill 1233 — requires public schools to make “reasonable accommodation” for a person who cannot or will not use a restroom or changing facility designated for their sex in a public school building or at a school-sponsored activity.

The bill defines a person’s sex as “a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.” It defines “reasonable accommodation” as having access to a “single-occupancy restroom or changing facility” or “use of an employee restroom or changing facility.”

“A reasonable accommodation does not include access to a restroom or changing facility that is designated for use by members of the opposite sex while persons of the opposite sex are present or could be present,” the bill reads.

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, issued a statement following the governor’s signing of the bill saying the law will “deny transgender students access to the bathroom and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.”

HRC said the bill further discriminates against trans students and opens public schools up to legal consequences if a student believes they have “shared a sex-segregated space” with a transgender student.

“This bill is squarely in defiance of federal law and flagrantly discriminatory,” the statement read.

“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,” HRC President Alphonso David said in the statement.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, “federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on sex, gender identity or sexual orientation in public accommodations.”

Federal nondiscrimination laws concerning public accommodations only cover race, color, religion, national origin and disability, according to NCTE.

However, 44 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sex in public accommodations. And 17 states have laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

In addition to this so-called bathroom bill, Lee also signed a transgender sports bill into law in March that requires students to prove their sex at birth in order to play middle and high school sports.

Tennessee lawmakers are also considering a bill that would require some businesses in the state to post signs indicating that they allow transgender or other non-binary people to use the bathroom in their establishment that matches their gender identity.

LGBTQ advocates say the policy is “offensive and humiliating” for members of the community and could lead to harassment.

The new law regarding school bathrooms comes into effect as more than half the country’s states have introduced more than 100 bills that aim to curb the rights of transgender people, with advocacy groups labeling 2021 as a record-breaking year for such legislation.

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