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Tennessee Advances Bill Requiring Warnings About Trans Restroom Use

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Tennessee legislators have approved a bill that would require businesses or government buildings to post warnings if they let transgender people use multi-person restrooms or changing rooms designated for their gender identity.

The state’s Senate passed the bill Thursday, the Associated Press reports. The House of Representatives had OK’d it in March, and it now goes to Republican Gov. Bill Lee for his signature or, less likely, veto.

Under the legislation, this language would be included on the sign: “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms [or another type of accommodation] by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”

Such signage is “offensive and humiliating,” according to the Human Rights Campaign, which issued a press release on the bill. “House Bill 1182 is a discriminatory piece of legislation crafted to generate the maximum amount of harm to Tennessee’s transgender community,” HRC President Alphonso David said in the release. “Transgender women are women; transgender men are men. Denying transgender people the ability to access a bathroom consistent with their gender identity is degrading and dehumanizing, and by advancing this bill, the Tennessee state legislature is putting the health and safety of transgender Tennesseans at risk. These ‘Slate of Hate’ bills are nothing more than a politically motivated attack on the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people. Gov. Lee must veto this bill, and the Tennessee state legislature must shift their priorities to find solutions to legitimate challenges affecting Tennesseans, from health care to COVID-19 relief.”

Lee has already signed into law a bill barring trans student athletes from playing on the school sports teams designated for their gender identity. He has said he will also sign a bill on his desk that would require schools to give parents advance notice of any lessons that include discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity and let the parents opt their children out of them.

Another “bathroom bill” is awaiting his action, this one making it grounds for a lawsuit if a person encounters someone “of the opposite sex” in a school restroom or changing room. It would require schools to designate single-user or employee facilities for trans students but not allow them access to multi-user facilities comporting with their gender identity. Lee said he hasn’t read this bill but has put a positive spin on what he’s heard about it, the AP reports, saying he’ll sign anything “that provides equal access for all kids.”

Rounding out Tennessee’s spate of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is a bill that would ban gender-affirming health care for minors, scheduled for a final House vote Monday.

Also Thursday, the Oklahoma House OK’d a bill, already approved by the Senate, that bars state colleges and universities from requiring students to go through training on sexual and gender diversity, the AP reports. It would prohibit certain lessons on racism and sexism in public K-12 schools as well, such as teaching that anyone is inherently racist or sexist, consciously or not.

The higher education portion of the bill undermines “what freshman orientations are about: making it clear that this is an inclusive space and inclusive environment and no one should be made to feel that they don’t belong,” said Rep. Emily Virgin, a Democrat whose district includes the University of Oklahoma. She said the K-12 portion of the bill addresses a nonexistent problem. The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The HRC condemned this measure too. “This legislation — developed without any legitimate basis — does nothing but perpetuate discrimination by literally preventing students from receiving inclusive, substantive diversity training,” David said in a statement. “This bill is a mean-spirited and direct effort to further marginalize women, people of color, and LGBTQ Oklahomans, pushed through the state legislature by lawmakers who chose to ignore the real problems in their state. Gov. Stitt must veto this harmful legislation that only serves to further divide Oklahoma for absolutely no reason at all.”

More than 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are making the rounds of state legislatures this year, about half of them specifically anti-trans. Trans-exclusionary sports bills have been signed into law in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia in addition to Tennessee, with executive orders to this effect issued in South Dakota. A bill denying trans minors gender-affirming care has been signed into law in Arkansas, and that state and South Dakota have seen governors approve “religious refusals” bills that enable discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and others.

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