Tennessee bill on indecent exposure targets trans people, campaigners say

LGBT activists and their supporters rally in support of transgender people on the steps of New York City Hall, October 24, 2018 in New York City

A Republican bill in Tennessee would penalise trans people who use a locker room which doesn’t match their assigned gender.

House Bill 1151 was introduced on on February 6 and it proposes expanding the offence of indecent exposure to include any “member of the opposite sex” who enters a single-sex bathroom, locker room, dressing room or shower and shows their “genitals or buttocks.”

The current draft of the legislation appears to specifically target trans people.

It states: “A medical, psychiatric, or psychological diagnosis of gender dysphoria, gender confusion, or similar conditions, in the absence of untreated mental conditions, such as schizophrenia, does not serve as a defence to the offence of indecent exposure.”

John D Ragan, the Tennessee politician who introduced the bill

Republican lawmaker John D Ragan denied the bill was anti-trans (John D Ragan/facebook)

Republican state representative John Ragan, who introduced the legislation to the House of Representatives, told Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 that he filed the bill for his two young granddaughters.

The 70-year-old added: “This bill is about making sure that it is clear where certain behaviours are appropriate and others are not.

“The expectation is if you are in a restroom that is designated for your sex, you have an expectation of certain conditions.”

Ragan denied that the bill was prejudiced against trans people.

“It doesn’t target them,” he said. “What it does is prevent them from using that as an excuse.”

Tennessee LGBT+ activists condemn Republican anti-trans bill

Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, criticised the bill when speaking to NewsChannel 5

He said that it was “a way of putting in a little bit of language that’s very damaging to the transgender community.

“It’s really about criminalising transgender people in certain kinds of public places.”

— Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project

“It’s really about criminalising transgender people in certain kinds of public places.”

House Bill 1151 is the latest in a group of proposed laws in Tennessee which have been dubbed the “Slate of Hate” by the Tennessee Equality Project and other queer advocates.

Tennessee Republicans are targeting the LGBT+ community

Earlier this week, it was reported that lawmakers in the state have filed a bill to overturn same-sex marriage.

Republican lawmakers Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton have introduced SB1282/HB1369, otherwise known as the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defence Act.

The bill declares that the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in favour of equal marriage “does not apply” in Tennessee, as the state’s constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The proposed law also seeks to enforce the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in Tennessee, prohibiting state government officials from recognising same-sex unions in any capacity.

The bill also directs the state’s Attorney General to defend Tennessee law if there is any court battle on the issue—which campaigners say is a sign of the true motive behind the plan.

If passed, the legislation would result in a court battle that could have much wider consequences if it reaches the US Supreme Court.

Ragan was also one of the sponsors of SB0848, which calls for adoption agencies to be allowed to reject gay couples if it conflicts with a company’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”