The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ civil rights organization, filed a lawsuit Tuesday to challenge Tennessee’s latest anti-transgender law. The “bathroom bill” prevents trans students from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
The law was signed in May by Tennessee governor Bill Lee and went into effect July 1. It requires that public schools must make “reasonable accommodation” for students who cannot use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex at birth.
However, the law reads that “a reasonable accommodation does not include access to a restroom of changing facility that is designated for use by members of the opposite sex while persons of the opposite sex are present or could be present.” This means that trans students are not allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Their only options are to use a “single-occupancy restroom” or “an employee restroom.”
The Human Rights Campaign filed their lawsuit on behalf of two transgender students. One of the students, Alex, a 14-year-old transgender boy, was not allowed to use the boys’ bathroom in his middle school due to a school policy. He could only use the girls’ bathroom or the school nurse’s private bathroom.
“When I started 7th grade, I just wanted to blend in,” Alex said in a statement. “Having to use a ‘special’ bathroom made me stand out because other kids would wonder why I didn’t just use the boys’ bathroom. It was also a pain because the bathrooms I was allowed to us were not close to any of my classes. So, I just stopped having anything to drink during the day. It stresses me out that I’ll have to deal with this all over again at my new school.”
The lawsuit argues that “by singling out transgender students for disfavored treatment and explicitly writing discrimination against transgender people into state law,” the law violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans any kind of discrimination based on sex in “federally funded education programs.”
Tennessee’s “bathroom bill” is one of five laws the state has already enacted this year that discriminate against transgender people.
“The Tennessee law, which denies transgender young people the ability to use facilities consistent with their gender identity, is not only morally reprehensible but devoid of any sound legal justification and cannot withstand legal scrutiny,” said Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “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 that and protect the civil rights of transgender kids and non-binary young people.”
“We are sending a strong message of support for all transgender and non-binary children across the country—you matter, and your legal rights should be respected.”
Sources: Human Rights Campaign 8/3/21; CNN 8/3/21; The Hill 8/3/21