Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Tennessee May Require Bathroom Signs Warning About Trans Access

Tennessee May Require Bathroom Signs Warning About Trans Access

Tennessee is putting a new and insulting spin on anti-transgender “bathroom bills.”

Under House Bill 1172, approved by the state’s House of Representatives Monday, businesses that let trans people use the public restrooms consistent with their gender identity would have to put up signage saying they let members “of either biological sex” have access to the facilities, as the legislation reads. The Human Rights Campaign calls the signage “offensive and humiliating.”

House members passed the bill by a vote of 62-25, with three not voting. A companion bill, Senate Bill 1224, is pending in that chamber. The legislation is part of what’s being called a new “slate of hate” in Tennessee, similar to a spate of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation the state saw two years ago.

Gov. Bill Lee has already signed a bill into law barring trans athletes from the school sports teams designated for their gender identity. Bills pending would ban gender-affirming health care for minors; make it a cause for legal action if a person encounters someone “of the opposite sex” in a school restroom or changing room; ban LGBTQ+ content from textbooks or other instructional materials; require parental notification if a school course includes discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity and let parents pull their children from such courses; and let all government employees opt out of diversity training.

Melodía Gutiérrez, the HRC’s associate regional campaign director, issued a statement denouncing HB 1182: “After watching Governor Bill Lee sign their discriminatory anti-transgender sports bill into law on Friday, the Tennessee House quickly moved to revisit an old, failed anti-equality fight, the so-called bathroom bill, and continue their relentless assault against LGBTQ and specifically transgender people. Denying transgender people the ability to play sports or access the bathroom consistent with their gender identity is part of a pernicious, degrading, and systematic attempt to dehumanize one of our most vulnerable communities. Transgender children especially are faced with heightened levels of anxiety, depression, and dysphoria when they are denied the chance to live consistent with their identity. The people of Tennessee are facing serious challenges that affect their everyday lives, from health care to infrastructure, including a pandemic that requires decisive action from its state leaders. Instead, the legislature is focused on targeting transgender people and advancing their ‘Slate of Hate.’”

From the earlier “slate of hate,” only one bill became law; it allows faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people and others who offend their religious beliefs, even if the agencies receive public funds. Legislation that failed then included bills to undermine marriage equality and support anti-trans restroom policies.

There has been a surge in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced this year — 174 bills in states all over the country, with a record 95 of the bills aimed specifically at trans people, according to HRC. Of the anti-trans bills, about half seek to bar trans athletes from the school sports teams designated for their gender identity, while many others seek to keep trans minors from receiving gender-affirming medical care. The sports bills have been signed into law in Arkansas and Mississippi as well as Tennessee, while South Dakota’s governor has taken a similar action by executive order. A bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors is now with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has already signed a bill allowing health care providers to opt out of procedures that offend their religious or moral beliefs.

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