Judge blocks Tennessee transgender bathroom sign law
A federal judge on Friday blocked a law in Tennessee that requires companies to publish a notice if they allow transgender people to use toilets that match their gender identities.
Two weeks ago, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of two business owners – who own Sanctuary, a community and performing arts center in Chattanooga, and Fido, a restaurant in Nashville, among others. companies – with the aim of blocking the law from July 1.
Judge Aleta A. Trauger of the United States District Court for the Central District of Tennessee has granted a preliminary injunction against the law while litigation continues.
“Restaurants and performance venues are businesses, but that’s not all; they are also among the most important physical places in which communities – so often relegated, in this era, to the electronic space – can come together and grow together in a way rooted in a particular neighborhood, in a particular city, in special condition, ”Trauger wrote.
“The complainants have presented evidence that they have strived to be welcoming spaces for communities that include transgender people and that the signage required by law would disrupt the welcoming environments they wish to provide,” continued Trauger. “This harm would be real, and it is not harm that could simply be repaired by an award at the end of the litigation.”
Glenn Funk and Neal Pinkston, both district attorneys general, and Christopher Bainbridge, director of code enforcement, are named as defendants in the lawsuit and have not returned a request for comment. The fourth respondent’s communications director, Carter Lawrence, the state fire marshal, declined to comment due to an ongoing litigation.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the Tennessee ACLU, said the law is bad for Tennessee businesses and harmful for trans people.
“We are glad that the court saw that this law is likely unconstitutional and hope that the state forgoes the unnecessary effort to defend discrimination and a violation of the First Amendment,” Weinberg said in a statement.
Kye Sayers, owner of Sanctuary Performing Arts, said in the ACLU statement that she was glad the court “saw forcing companies to display a sign that hurts transgender and intersex people is unconstitutional.”
“These signs would have damaged our businesses and the environment we tried to create for our community, our customers and our staff,” she added.
Bob Bernstein, another plaintiff in the lawsuit and owner of Fido and several local cafes, said in the statement that this was a free speech issue for him as a business owner, and he hopes the judge’s injunction “will lead to a permanent ban on an unconstitutional violation of my rights to free speech.”
The complaint is one of two filed against the law. The other was filed last week by Mike Curb, owner of a Nashville record company, who is represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders.
The new law requires business owners to even have an informal policy that allows people to use any bathroom they wish to post a sign that reads: “, at the entrance to public washrooms, changing rooms , changing rooms or other single-sex facilities that are “designed for a specific biological sex … where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy”.
The sponsor of the bill, Representative Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, said during the legislative debate in May that it was intended to protect women and children “from sexual predators who could benefit from policies, executive orders. or laws that may allow the opposite sex to enter the toilet, shower or locker room, ”the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
Lawyers said the law is just a new iteration of laws passed in 2016 that aimed to ban trans people from using bathrooms that conform to their gender identity, like House Bill 2 in North Carolina.
Around this time, proponents of so-called “bathroom bills” used Rudd’s predator argument, but a 2018 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School found revealed that there was no evidence that inclusive policies for public facilities increased safety risks.
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