April 18, 2016 at 6:41 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Tennessee anti-trans bathroom bill declared dead
Tennessee, gay news, Washington Blade

An anti-transgender bathroom bill is dead in Tennessee. (Image public domain)

Amid concerns the legislation would cost Tennessee federal funding, the lawmaker behind an anti-trans “papers to pee” bill in the state has withdrawn the measure, effectively killing it for the year.

According to The Tennessean, State Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), the sponsor of the bill, said Monday prior to a planned committee markup she plans to hold off on action to further study the issue.

“I have learned that our school districts are largely following what the bill says,” Lynn is quoted as saying. “I am still absolutely 100 percent in support of maintaining the privacy of all students. But I’m going to roll the bill over until next year so we can work on those issues.”

Similar to the controversial anti-LGBT law in North Carolina, House Bill 2414 — and its companion in the Senate, Senate Bill 2387 — would have prohibited transgender students from using public restrooms in schools in Tennessee consistent with their gender identity.

For a time, the bill was thought dead, but a Tennessee committee resurrected the legislation and advanced it earlier this month. Additional votes in finance committees were scheduled this week in both chambers of the legislature, but now that House version is pulled, LGBT advocates have declared the measure dead for the year in both chambers. It remains to be seen if action on the bill will be taken next year.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, praised the legislature for giving up on legislation she said would harm transgender students.

“We are gratified that Rep. Susan Lynn heeded the extensive opposition to this bill from all corners of the state and decided to take this discriminatory and harmful legislation off notice,” Weinberg said. “This measure would have had a devastating financial impact on the state, let alone the damage that it would have caused vulnerable students in Tennessee.  Today’s move helps ensure that every child in Tennessee will be treated with respect and dignity. We will remain vigilant to ensure that all Tennessee children are treated equally under the law.”

Last week, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slattery, a Republican, warned the Tennessee legislation passage of the bill could result in loss a federal Title IX funding for the state. According to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, the funding is estimated at $1.2 billion a year.

Additionally, the fiscal note from the Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee estimated the bill would result in a loss of $800,000 in state and local tax revenue and an increase of $324,000 in state expenditures.

The Human Rights Campaign, along with the Tennessee Equality Project, the ACLU of Tennessee and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, hand-delivered to legislative leaders an open letter signed by 60 major CEOs and business leaders calling on lawmakers to scrap the legislation.

“Tennessee lawmakers were wise to learn from the mistakes of North Carolina and Mississippi and halt this cruel legislation that would have only worsened the marginalization and harassment transgender students already face on a daily basis,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Over the last weeks and months, a growing chorus of civil rights leaders, child welfare advocates, businesses, and fair-minded people spoke out and declared that transgender youth deserve our support, care and respect. We urge Tennessee lawmakers to reject any similar future proposals that would subject these youth to discrimination and fear.”

On the same day Lynn announced she would pull the measure, the ACLU of Tennessee and other advocacy organizations delivered a petition to the governor’s office against the legislation. The more than 67,000 people who signed the petition include nearly 6,000 people who self-identified as clergy or people of faith.

Also speaking out against the legislation was the White House, which said the anti-trans measure in Tennessee was just as “mean-spirited” as recently enacted anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi.

Jeff Tiller, a White House spokesperson, joined in the commendation of Tennessee lawmakers for abandoning plans to pass the anti-trans measure.

“Legislation that undermines the equal dignity of all students has no place in Tennessee, or anywhere else,” Tiller said. “Like so many other business leaders, local officials and engaged citizens across the state, we had serious concerns about the legislation and are pleased to see the bill is not moving forward. We remain firmly committed to promoting and defending the equal rights of all Americans, including the rights of LGBT students across the country.”

h/t The New Civil Rights Movement 

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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