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Tennessee legislature introduces transphobic ‘bathroom bill’

By Zack Ford
Think Progress
Friday, January 13, 2012
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If it weren’t discouraging enough that the Tennessee legislature will consider a “license to bully” bill and reconsider the “don’t say gay” bill, the new session has opened with the introduction of a blatantly transphobic bathroom bill.

The bill (SB 2282) would institute a $50 fine for anybody who does not use the public restroom or dressing room that matches the sex identification on his or her birth certificate:

(b) Except as provided in § 68-15-303, where a restroom or dressing room in a public building is designated for use by members of one particular sex, only members of that particular sex shall be permitted to use that restroom or dressing room.

(c) A violation of subsection (b) is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a to a fine of fifty dollars ($50.00).

If passed, this bill would make Tennessee a particularly unfriendly place for people who are transgender. Tennessee law does not allow for the sex to be changed on birth certificates, which means this law would make it illegal for transgender people to utilize any public accommodations that match their gender. It would also impose on any businesses — such as Macy’s — that have transgender-inclusive policies.

Last year, the Family Action Council of Tennessee ran transphobic ads to support a bill that banned all municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The ads rehashed the “bathroom meme,” the fear that all transgender people are sexual predators trying to use the wrong restroom to find children to abuse.

In reality, there has never been a case of someone using a transgender identity to molest children, nor is there anything to suggest that this bill would do anything to make children safer from actual predators. (HT: Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition.)

Much has unfolded in the day since the bill was first introduced.

First, state Sen. Bo Watson (R) has withdrawn his version of the bill. He had introduced it as a courtesy to state Rep. Richard Floyd (R), who represents the same region of Tennessee. In a statement to ThinkProgress, Watson’s communications director explained that “Sen. Watson concluded that there are far more pressing issues facing the state of Tennessee at this time.”

Floyd now stands alone as the sponsor of the bill (HB 2279), which he defended yesterday using incredibly transphobic rhetoric. In no uncertain terms, he explained that he would resort to violence if he ever encountered someone transgender in a dressing room:

FLOYD: I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.

Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room.

In an extended interview with WTVF News Chanel 5, Floyd doubled down on his comments, claiming that his bill doesn’t “penalize anybody,” it “protects everybody,” and he could “care less” what transgender advocacy groups think. Watch it:

This bill is nothing short of an outright attack on transgender people, and Floyd’s comments make it clear he lacks any understanding or compassion for the trans community. Enforcement of this bill could lead to ID checks in public restrooms and would be devastatingly stigmatizing, especially considering Tennessee offers no option for individuals to change their birth certificate gender markers.

Even individuals passing through one of Tennessee’s airports or bus stops could be targeted for these fines, just for being transgender.

© Think Progress.
This article was published by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
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