Tennessee Governor Just Straight Up Declaring War On Trans People
Earlier this year, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee was on quite a roll with some of the worst anti-abortion laws we've seen, including one that would allow rapists to sue their victims in order to force them to have their child and another for forced abortion funerals. For the last week, however, he took a break from all of that and set his sights on the trans community, signing three new shit-stirring bills targeting them.
The first two were bathroom bills, because of course they were. People like Bill Lee are historically very concerned about restricting access to bathroom facilities and/or making the use of public restrooms as uncomfortable and humiliating as humanly possible for those they dislike.
On Friday, he signed a bill that would make it so public schools and other state-owned entities can actually be sued if they allow transgender people to use bathrooms, changing rooms, or similar facilities consistent with their identity. Like, some crappy Karen mom can actually get in a huff over a trans kid in her kid's school being allowed to use the bathroom and then sue the school and collect actual money. Taxpayer money, in fact. He wants the people of Tennessee to actually pay bigots for being bigots.
Under the bathroom measure, a student, parent or employee could sue in an effort to claim monetary damages "for all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered" if school officials allow a transgender person into the bathroom or locker room when others are in there. They also could take legal action if required to stay in the same sleeping quarters as a member of the opposite sex at birth, unless that person is a family member.
The proposal says schools must try to offer a bathroom or changing facility that is single-occupancy or that is for employees if a student or employee "desires greater privacy when using a multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility" designated for their sex at birth.
Lee, who is up for reelection next year, has said the bill promotes "equality in bathrooms," despite the prohibition against transgender people using multi-person facilities that don't align with their sex at birth. The legislation takes effect July 1.
For the second, a little twist on the classic bathroom bill. Private companies, such as restaurants and shops, will be "allowed" to decide their own bathroom policies, but if they do decide to let trans people pee, they have to put up some truly offensive signage.
This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.
The sign idea is bad enough on its own, but that wording really drives it on home. It's almost as if the main point of it is to take pot shots at trans people by trying to insinuate that they are not actually the gender they are. The only thing that could possibly make it worse was if it were required to be written in Rae Dunn pottery font.
The ACLU has since responded by stating that the law is "impermissible compelled speech, in violation of the First Amendment, and raises substantial due process and equal protection concerns."
For the record, I do not think single stall bathrooms should be gendered to begin with — both because we should have moved on from that by now and because it is super freaking annoying to stand in line for five minutes in front of the women's restroom when there is no line in front of the men's.
The third bill, signed on Wednesday, is a ban on any and all medical gender-confirming treatment to young minors, specifically prohibiting puberty blockers and hormones to prepubescent trans children. However, there is no evidence that any doctor in Tennessee is even doing this.
These are not the only anti-trans bills he's signed, of course. Earlier this year he signed a bill prohibiting trans athletes from competing in girls sports. This April, he signed a bill requiring teachers and schools to give parents 30 days notice before any lesson that might, in some way, acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ+ people and allow parents to opt their children out if they so choose.
The two bathroom bills are the first bathroom bills that have been signed in any state for several years, as every time some state has tried to pull that nonsense, they end up getting screwed economically by companies that don't want anything to do with a state that supports discrimination. No major boycotts have been announced yet, but courting them when he's up for reelection next year might not be the smartest move Bill Lee has ever come up with.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse