ACLU Suing Tennessee Over New Transgender Bathroom Law

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Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the state of Tennessee over its new law regarding transgender bathrooms, according to The Associated Press (AP).

The Tennessee law stipulates, among other things, that bold, uppercase letter signage must be posted outside multi-person bathrooms where transgender individuals are allowed to use the bathroom based on their gender identity and not biological sex. Violating the law carries the threat of misdemeanor penalties.

The ACLU’s Tennessee state chapter filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of Fido, a Nashville restaurant, owner Bob Bernstein and owner of Chattanooga’s Sanctuary Performing Arts venue Kyle Sayers, The AP reported. The suit claims that the sign requirement in the Tennessee law is in violation of the First Amendment because it compels business owners to “communicate a misleading and controversial government-mandated message that they would not otherwise display,” according to The AP.

Furthermore, the lawsuit argues that the phrase “either biological sex” is ”offensive to transgender and intersex people because it asserts that transgender people are not the sex they know themselves to be and ignores the existence of intersex people,” The AP reported.

The business owners the ACLU are advocating for have strong ties to the transgender community and fear that posting the signs as required by the new law will offend customers and drive away business.

“Sanctuary was founded specifically to create a safe space for transgender and intersex people and their families in a state that can be unwelcoming to LGBTQ people,” Sayers said in a news release for the lawsuit. “I am against posting offensive signs that stigmatize and deny the existence of transgender and intersex people at our center.”

Republican Tennessee state Rep. Tim Rudd, the law’s original sponsor, claimed that the law is not discriminatory in any fashion. Rudd pointed out that the law does not limit businesses regarding which facilities people can use, and gives a 30-day window to post signs once the business is informed it is not in compliance with the law, The AP reported.

“It’s very shocking and a danger to people if they walk into a restroom that’s marked men or women, and the opposite sex is standing there, it could scare them, it could provoke violence,” Rudd said previously, according to The AP. (RELATED: Tennessee Attorney General Lambasts Court Ruling Protecting Transgender Persons From Being Fired)

Samantha Fisher, a spokesperson for Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, confirmed that the attorney general’s office “will defend state law but cannot comment further on pending litigation,” the AP reported. However, Glen Funk, the Nashville District Attorney and defendant named in the lawsuit, said that his office will not enforce the law as to “not promote hate,” WSMV reported.