Tenn. AG: Anti-Trans Bill Will 'Almost Certainly' Cost State Millions

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery

Tennessee’s anti-trans “bathroom bill” could cost the state millions of dollars in federal funding if it becomes law, says Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery — and this may spell doom for the measure, according to some of its opponents.

The recently resurrected House Bill 2414, which would bar transgender students in Tennessee public schools from using the restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities that comport with their gender identity, would conflict with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Slatery said in an opinion issued today, reports The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper.

The U.S. Department of Education has held that because Title IX forbids sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funds, it also bans discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Tennessee receives about $3 billion a year in federal funding for public elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

“In sum, if a transgender student is required by a school district in Tennessee to use a restroom or locker room facility that is consistent with his or her anatomical gender rather than his or her gender expression or gender identity, and if that student files a complaint, DOE, applying its current interpretation of Title IX, will almost certainly require the school district to permit the student access to the facility consistent with his or her gender expression, and refusal to do so could very well result in loss of federal funding — at least until DOE’s interpretation is overruled by authoritative and binding judicial decision,” Slatery wrote in the opinion.

Two state representatives, Democrat Mike Stewart and Republican Harry Brooks, had asked the attorney general to analyze the bill’s implications. Stewart, in a press conference today, said Slatery’s opinion is the “final nail in the coffin” for the legislation, The Tennessean reports.

“The fact that the attorney general has recognized that this will result in significantly reduced federal funds for the state of Tennessee should put an end to the discussion about this bill,” Stewart said.

Whether it will remains to be seen, but a growing number of celebrities, corporate leaders, and others have denounced the bill, which the House Education Administration and Planning Committee last week decided to reconsider after having sent it to summer study. That committee approved it and sent it on to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee, which is scheduled to discuss it Tuesday.

Country singer and actor Billy Ray Cyrus, the father of pansexual music star and LGBT activist Miley Cyrus, today joined the chorus condemning the legislation. “As a friend and a dad ... I’ve witnessed this fight from the very beginning,” he said, according to The Tennessean. “I think everyone should be treated equal. We’ve come too far; we can’t mess this up.”

Other opponents from the entertainment world, business, and labor, the paper reports, include Chris Carmack, Desmond Child, Emmylou Harris, Chely Wright, Ty Herndon, Dow Chemical Co., Hewlett-Packard, Alcoa, Choice Hotels International, Viacom, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 492. Gov. Bill Haslam has expressed concerns about the bill jeopardizing federal funding but hasn’t said whether he would sign and veto it, and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has denounced it on both human rights and economic grounds.

The Human Rights Campaign today called on Tennessee lawmakers to heed Slatery’s warning. “We hope that Tennessee’s elected officials hear Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s clear message — the state’s discriminatory, anti-transgender legislation will jeopardize crucial federal funding for the state’s public schools,” said a statement released by HRC senior vice president of policy and political affairs JoDee Winterhof. “Any compassionate person can see how cruel this legislation targeting transgender children is. But this warning from the state’s top lawyer also makes clear that the terrible bill puts millions of federal education dollars in peril, risking the quality of education received by every single student attending Tennessee’s public schools.”

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