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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signs bill banning students from using opposite-sex bathrooms

Bathroom
A sign points at the WC restrooms in Troisdorf near Bonn, western Germany, March 9, 2016. |

Tennessee's Republican Gov. Bill Lee has signed into law a measure that requires students at the state’s public schools to use restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to their biological sex instead of their gender identity.

Lee signed the "Tennessee Accommodations for all Children Act" on Friday after the bill passed both chambers of the state Legislature. The bill, also known as House Bill 1233, defines sex as “a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.” While the bill forbids students from entering private facilities designated for the opposite sex, it also provides “reasonable accommodations” for students with gender dysphoria.

The legislation includes a provision calling on public schools in the state to establish a “reasonable accommodation” for any student who is “unwilling or unable to use a multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility designated for the person’s sex and located within a public school building, or multi-occupancy sleeping quarters while attending a public school-sponsored activity” and “provides a written request for a reasonable accommodation to the public school.”

Examples of reasonable accommodation cited in the law include “access to a single-occupancy restroom or changing facility, or use of an employee restroom or changing facility.” The Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act is scheduled to go into effect July 1.

Supporters of legislation like House Bill 1233, derided by opponents as “bathroom bills,” argue that the laws are necessary to protect the privacy and safety of women and girls.

The sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl in a girls’ bathroom at a school in Decatur, Georgia, was cited as an example of the consequences of policies allowing students and adults to use bathrooms that correspond with their perceived gender identity and not their birth sex.

On the other hand, opponents of the law argue that it constitutes an example of anti-LGBT discrimination.

Lee’s signing of House Bill 1233 faced criticism from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group. “By advancing hateful legislation like HB 1233 (SB 1367), Tennessee Gov. Lee and state legislators are using their power to harm and further stigmatize trans youth in Tennessee,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement.

“The state of Tennessee is quickly becoming a national leader for anti-LGBTQ legislation, as lawmakers would rather discriminate against LGBTQ youth than focus on real problems facing Tennesseans. I want to be clear: Gov. Lee’s shameful decision to sign this baseless and discriminatory bill into law will harm the health and well-being of trans students in Tennessee by creating daily degrading experiences for them at school. These ‘Slate of Hate’ bills are unjustifiable and must stop,” he added.

The passage of House Bill 1233 comes after President Joe Biden signed an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on his first day in office. The executive order states: “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room or school sports.”

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are looking to codify nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community into law by passing the Equality Act. The wide-ranging legislative initiative declares that “an individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.”

While the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act earlier this year, it has stalled in the Senate due to opposition from both Republicans and Democrats.

Tennessee has also enacted a bill that would ban boys who identify as transgender from competing in girls' sports at the K-12 level, making it one of several states to pass such legislation this year.

In addition to LGBT-related bills, the Republican-controlled Volunteer State has worked to pass other conservative legislation in recent years, including a bill to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, require women who undergo chemical abortions to be informed about the abortion pill reversal, and ban abortions of babies based purely on a Down syndrome diagnosis.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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