Tennessee governor signs ‘shameful, baseless’ attack on trans students into law

Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee

Tennessee governor Bill Lee has signed a bill which bans trans students from accessing bathrooms which align with their gender in public schools.

Governor Lee signed the bill, called the Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act, on Friday (14 May). It requires public schools to ensure pupils have access to bathrooms designated for their sex, which it defines as “a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth”.

The bill adds: “A reasonable accommodation does not include access to a restroom or changing facility that is designated for use by members of the opposite sex while persons of the opposite sex are present or could be present.”

The new ‘bathroom bill’ follows governer Lee signing a bill in March which banned trans girls from playing middle and high school sports as their correct gender.

The state has also pushed forward bills banning gender-affirming care for trans minors, requiring businesses to post signs disclosing that trans people use their bathrooms, allowing parents to remove their children from LGBT-inclusive education, and allowing adoption providers to discriminate against LGBT+ people. These bills were all pushed forward in 2021 alone. Many have dubbed the bills the ‘Slate of Hate’.

The repeated attacks on trans rights in Tennessee has prompted a widespread backlash from Americans, including Jennifer Pritzker, the world’s first and only out trans billionaire. Even the Log Cabin Republicans called the bill requiring businesses to post signs if trans people use their bathrooms “misguided”.

President of the Human Rights Campaign Alphonso David said in a public 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.”

HRC director Melodía Gutiérrez added: “[Tennessee’s elected leaders] have no regard for the damaging impact these bills have on the mental health of transgender students — who have been begging state leaders to leave them alone.”