Tennessee transgender bathroom bill blocked by federal court judge
The bill that required businesses to install signs stating that transgender people were allowed to use restrooms associated with their gender identity, has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A federal judge temporarily blocked a Tennessee law that required businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they let transgender people use multiple stall bathrooms, locker rooms or changing rooms associated with their gender identity.
The law required businesses to post special signs in the public eye if they allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice that reads “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”
The law’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Tim Rudd, said the law isn’t discriminatory, noting it doesn’t limit businesses on which facilities they can let people use and includes a 30-day window to post signs after an entity is informed it’s not complying.
“It’s very shocking and a danger to people if they walk into a restroom that’s marked men or women, and the opposite sex is standing there, it could scare them, it could provoke violence,” Rudd said while lawmakers debated the requirement.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Chattanooga business owner Kye Sayers and Nashville business owner Bob Bernstein. They believe the law violates the First Amendment.
“The State of Tennessee has enacted a law ordering the plaintiffs to say something that they do not wish to say, in furtherance of a message they do not agree with,” according to court documents. “The plaintiffs challenge that law on the basis that the First Amendment typically does not permit such a mandate unless it is narrowly tailored to satisfy a compelling government purpose.”
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Court documents show judge Aleta A. Trauger decided to temporarily block the bill while it continues to be reviewed. She states in her opinion that restaurants are a shared space that allows a community to grow.
“The plaintiffs have presented evidence that they have strived to be welcoming spaces for communities that include transgender individuals and that the signage required by the Act would disrupt the welcoming environments that they wish to provide.,” Trauger stated in her court opinion. “That harm would be real, and it is not a harm that could simply be remedied by some award at the end of litigation.”
The ACLU has won three cases so far challenging what they deem as “anti-trans” laws in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Idaho.
“This law is bad for businesses in Tennessee, and most importantly, harmful to transgender people,” said ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg, . “We are glad the court saw that this law is likely unconstitutional and hope that the state gives up the wasteful effort to defend discrimination and a violation of the First Amendment.”
Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk, a defendant named in the lawsuit, has said his office “will not promote hate” and won’t enforce the law.
The law was originally signed by Gov. Bill Lee to take effect on July 1.
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