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Parents sue Tennessee for discriminating against trans students

A tortured high school student
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The state of Tennessee is being sued again over one of the anti-LGBTQ bills it passed this year, now by parents who say that allowing cisgender students to sue school districts if they encounter a transgender student in the restroom will make life harder for their children.

The LGBTQ organization HRC filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn H.B. 1233, which requires schools to provide transgender-free restrooms for cisgender students or risk being sued by their families or even school employees.

Related: Business owners can get 6 months in jail if they don’t post sign warning about transgender shoppers

“I’m worried that if she’s forced to use the boys’ bathroom about her being bullied,” one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit told them. She is only identified as “Julie B.” in court documents and her six-year-old daughter Ariel is transgender.

“A lot can happen in the bathroom because it is such a private location. There’s not any adult supervision in there.”

Julie said that her daughter doesn’t understand why she could be forced to use the boys’ bathroom “because I’m a girl, not a boy.”

H.B. 1233 was introduced by state Rep. Jason Zachary (R), who said that high schools felt “handcuffed” by the law, unable to ban transgender students from using the correct bathroom..

“There’s not much they can do about it,” he said at the time. “This bill takes care of that. It stops all that and just provides absolute clarity.”

HRC’s lawsuit argues that H.B. 1233 violates federal law, including Title IX, which bans discrimination in education, as well as the Equal Protection Clause in the U.S. Constitution. Effectively, they’re saying that a state law can’t lift the handcuffs that Zachary mentioned, which include federal law.

“Courts have time-and-again ruled against these dangerous and discriminatory laws and we are going to fight in court to strike down this one and protect the civil rights of transgender and non-binary young people,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement.

The family of a transgender 14-year-old boy is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. They say that he never uses the bathroom at school because he’s not allowed to use the boys’ restroom and was instead told to use the girls’ restroom or a single-occupancy bathroom for teachers or next to the nurse’s office.

Since he doesn’t want to be misgendered – and outed – by using the wrong restroom or singled out by using staff facilities, the teen says that he says he avoids drinking water while at school and then runs home right after school to use the bathroom.

The lawsuit says that he is effectively being denied access to educational programs because of he is part of a historically oppressed minority.

It also cites President Joe Biden’s executive order from earlier this year that says that Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination also bans discrimination against LGBTQ people because it’s impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity without taking sex into account. The White House has stated that it’s his administration’s policy that “trans rights are human rights.”

The Tennessee attorney general’s office said that they are reviewing the lawsuit.

This is the second lawsuit over an anti-LGBTQ law that Tennessee is facing this year after it passed at least four anti-LGBTQ laws in just the first few months of the year.

Last month, the ACLU succeeded in getting a temporary injunction against H.B. 1182, a law passed this year that requires businesses to post signs warning customers that they treat transgender people equally or face up to six months in prison.

“These signs would have damaged our businesses and the environment we have tried to create for our community, customers, and staff,” said Kye Sayers, one of the two business owners who are plaintiffs in that case.

The state also passed a bill this year to ban transgender girls from participating in school sports.

H.B. 529, also passed in Tennessee this year, requires schools to give parents 30 days notice and an option to opt out if a teacher is going to mention LGBTQ people.

“As a parent, I find out when my child comes home what video they saw that day, not 30 days before so I can protect my own child from that,” Rep. Ryan Williams (R) said in support of the law. “Our kids are young and impressionable, and what we allow in their minds is important.”

The state also banned doctors from providing gender-affirming care to “prepubertal minors,” which is not a thing that happens. How the law will affect the care trans youth receive is not yet known.

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