(Headline USA) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed legislation to remove legal protections for public schools that let transgender students or employees use multi-person bathrooms or locker rooms that do not correspond with their biological sex.
LGBTQ advocates have decried the legislation as discriminatory.
It’s the first bill restricting bathroom use by transgender people signed in any state in about five years, according to Wyatt Ronan, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign.
The Republican governor signed the bill Friday, cementing another policy into law this year in Tennessee that protects boys and girls from people with gender dysphoria.
Numerous measures to protect public decency and morality have advanced recently in GOP-led statehouses across the country, including in Texas, Alabama and Arkansas.
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 an opposite sex 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 biological sex.
Lee, who is up for reelection next year, has said the bill promotes “equality in bathrooms.”
The legislation takes effect July 1.
“That bill provides equal access to every student. It’s a reasonable accommodation,” Lee 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 American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has said the requirement would violate equal protection rights under the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. The ACLU expects the law will be challenged in court.
“Transgender students should be treated with respect and dignity, just like everyone else,” ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said in a statement. “Governor Lee’s decision to sign this bill sends the opposite message -– that students should be able to discriminate against a group of their classmates by avoiding sharing public spaces with them, and sue their schools if they are prevented from doing so.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.