Tennessee Lawmakers to Consider Anti-Transgender Bill, Following Governor’s Discussion of Concerns

By Megan Clayton • March 15, 2016 • 10:45 am

HB2414, the Tennessee bill that would force transgender children in public schools to use restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities that correspond with their biological sex—ignoring their gender identity or expression—will be heard today, March 15, in the Tennessee House. The hearing was originally scheduled for March 8 but was rescheduled last week. A Senate hearing on a similar bill will be held tomorrow, March 16.

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On Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, announced that he was concerned about the legislation, citing the federal funding that public schools receive, contingent with following Title IX, which has been interpreted by many judges to protect people from discrimination based on sex in schools.

No state in the country has passed a law that so blatantly punishes transgender students — and similar bills have been met with bipartisan opposition and national outcry from Americans who understand that no one should face discrimination because of who they are. Earlier this year, South Dakota’s Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed an anti-transgender bill HB1008, noting the importance of preserving local control of schools and that the personal stories he received from transgender students caused him to see “things through their eyes.” And a similar bill died in Wisconsin when the Wisconsin Legislature adjourned without taking action, following stiff opposition from transgender students, parents, children’s health advocates and other allies.

While HB2414 is still up for debate in Tennessee, the bill’s consequences are not. Forcing transgender students to use facilities that do not correspond with the gender they live every day will negatively impact their mental health and physical safety. School districts will be burdened by having to follow different state and federal laws, opening themselves to the possibility of being sued in federal courts and forced to forfeit federal funding. And the state’s reputation will suffer lasting harm, since lawmakers will be sending a message that Tennessee is unwelcoming and outright hostile to members of the LGBT community.

Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said this week about HB2414:

“Bills like this undermine the privacy and safety of all students, but particularly transgender students – who already experience heightened levels of harassment and isolation in school. This type of legislation not only singles out transgender youth for discrimination, but it also imperils federal funding for schools and universities across the state and eviscerates long-held principles of local control. Similar legislation failed in South Dakota because business leaders, conservatives and leading health experts united in opposition to such a dangerous measure – and we expect to see a similar response should Tennessee lawmakers continue down this path.”

Tennessee should follow the example set by South Dakota’s governor and Wisconsin’s legislature and take a stand against HB2414. Tennessee lawmakers should stop wasting their time policing students’ gender, and turn instead to the important work of passing affirmative protections for the LGBT community.


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