Judge Blocks Tennessee’s Transgender Bathroom Sign Law


(Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

A federal judge on Friday blocked a Tennessee law that required businesses to post a notice if they allow transgender people to use bathrooms based on their gender identity rather than their biological sex.

The law requires that bold, uppercase letter signage must be posted outside multi-person bathrooms that transgender individuals are allowed to use based on their gender identity.

Business owners must post a sign that reads, “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex regardless of the designation on the restroom,” at the entrance of single-sex public restrooms, locker rooms, dressing areas, or other facilities that are “designated for a specific biological sex . . . where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The ruling comes as part of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of two Tennessee business owners. The suit, filed late last month, sought to prevent the rule from going into effect on July 1.

On Friday, Middle District of Tennessee judge Aleta A. Trauger ruled in favor of the ACLU and issued a temporary injunction against the law.

“The plaintiffs have presented evidence that they have strived to be welcoming spaces for communities that include transgender individuals and that the signage required by the Act would disrupt the welcoming environments that they wish to provide,” Trauger wrote in the ruling. “That harm would be real, and it is not a harm that could simply be remedied by some award at the end of litigation.”

Kye Sayers, owner of Sanctuary Performing Arts who challenged the new law with the help of the ACLU, said she is glad that the court “saw that forcing businesses to display a sign that hurts transgender and intersex people is unconstitutional,” according to NBC News.

Tennessee state representative Tim Rudd (R) said during legislative debate in May that the measure is intended to protect women and children “against sexual predators that could be taking advantage of policies, executive orders or legislation that may allow the opposite sex to enter a restroom, shower or locker room,” according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A second suit was filed against the law last week, by a Nashville record-label owner who is represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders.

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