Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a “bathroom bill” into law Friday. Critics of the bill say that it puts “public schools and their districts at risk of losing civil lawsuits if they let transgender students or employees use multi-person bathrooms or locker rooms that do not reflect their gender at birth” according to the Associated Press report.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQ advocacy group, issued a statement following the governor’s signing of the bill saying the legislation is discriminatory and will “deny transgender students access to the bathroom and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.” HRC also said it could open public schools to legal consequences if a student believes they have “shared a sex-segregated space” with a transgender student, according to the report.
It’s the first bill restricting bathroom use by transgender people signed in any state in about five years, Wyatt Ronan, a spokesperson for the LGBTQ advocacy group said.
The governor said the bill promotes “equality in bathrooms” and requires schools to offer a single-occupancy or employee facility, but bars letting transgender people use multi-person facilities that don’t align with their sex at birth.
The legislation will allow a student, parent or employee to 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 report says.
The legislation takes effect July 1.
“That bill provides equal access to every student. It’s a reasonable accommodation,” Lee, who is up for reelection next year told reporters last week. “It allows for accommodation for every student regardless of their gender. I think that’s a smart approach to the challenge.”
The governor also signed a transgender sports bill into law in March that requires students to prove their sex at birth in order to play middle and high school sports.