Tennessee House Passes ‘Business Bathroom Bill,’ Adding to ‘Slate of Hate’ Efforts After Anti-Trans Sports Bill Signed Into Law

by Wyatt Ronan

Person facing back at a protest holding a sign that says "Trans Folx Are Not A Threat, Transphobia Is"

TENNESSEE — Today, the Tennessee House passed HB 1182 (SB 1224), a discriminatory bill that aims to prevent transgender people from using restrooms aligning with their identity by requiring businesses with ‘formal or informal’ policies of allowing transgender people to use the appropriate restroom to post offensive and humiliating signage. This bill, along with the anti-transgender sports bill that Governor Bill Lee signed into law last Friday, are part of the 2021 “Slate of Hate” — anti-equality bills pushed by national extremist groups and peddled by lawmakers in Tennessee in an effort to sow fear and division.

In addition to these two anti-transgender bills, the legislature is considering SB 1367 (HB 1233), another ‘bathroom bill,’ HB 578 (SB 657), an anti-trans medical care ban, SB 1229 (HB 529), an anti-lgbtq parental notification bill, HB 800 (SB 1216), a bill that would prevent schools from providing an LGBTQ-inclusive education, and HB 372 (SB 193), a bill to permit all government employees, including teachers, first responders, and public officials to opt-out of diversity training. Human Rights Campaign Associate Regional Campaign Director, Melodía Gutiérrez, issued the following statement in reaction to the House advancing HB 1182:

After watching Governor Bill Lee sign their discriminatory anti-transgender sports bill into law on Friday, the Tennessee House quickly moved to revisit an old, failed anti-equality fight, the so-called ‘Bathroom Bill’ and continue their relentless assault against LGBTQ and specifically transgender people. Denying transgender people the ability to play sports or access the bathroom consistent with their gender identity is part of a pernicious, degrading, and systematic attempt to dehumanize one of our most vulnerable communities. Transgender children especially are faced with heightened levels of anxiety, depression, and dysphoria when they are denied the chance to live consistent with their identity. The people of Tennessee are facing serious challenges that affect their everyday lives, from healthcare to infrastructure, including a pandemic that requires decisive action from its state leaders. Instead, the legislature is focused on targeting transgender people and advancing their ‘Slate of Hate.’

Melodía Gutiérrez, Human Rights Campaign Associate Regional Campaign Director

Wide range of business and advocacy groups, athletes oppose anti-trans legislation

  • Earlier this month, more than 60 major U.S. corporations stood up and spoke out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country. New companies like Facebook, Pfizer, Altria, Peloton, and Dell join companies like Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Google, Hilton, IBM, IKEA, Microsoft, Nike, Paypal, Uber, and Verizon in objecting to these bills.
  • Nearly 550 college athletes have stood up to anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states with anti-trans sports legislation
  • The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ people, and transgender children in particular.

A fight driven by national anti-LGBTQ groups, not local legislators or public concern

These bills come from the same forces that drove previous anti-equality fights by pushing copycat bills across state houses — dangerous, anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Heritage Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom (designated by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group), and Eagle Forum among others.

  • For example, Montana’s HB 112, the first anti-transgender sports bill to be passed through a legislative chamber in any state, was worked on by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Trans equality is popular: Anti-transgender legislation is a low priority, even among Trump voters

In a 10-swing-state poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group last fall:

  • At least 60% of Trump voters across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should be able to live freely and openly.
  • At least 87% of respondents across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should have equal access to medical care, with many states breaking 90% support
  • When respondents were asked about how they prioritized the importance of banning transgender people from participating in sports as compared to other policy issues, the issue came in dead last, with between 1% and 3% prioritizing the issue.

Another more recent poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group revealed that, with respect to transgender youth participation in sports, the public’s strong inclination is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student athletes. 73% of voters agree that “sports are important in young people’s lives. Young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”

States that pass anti-transgender legislation suffer economic, legal, reputational harm

Analyses conducted in the aftermath of previous divisive anti-transgender bills across the country, like the bathroom bills introduced in Texas and North Carolina and an anti-transgender sports ban in Idaho, show that there would be or has been devastating fallout.

  • The Idaho anti-transgender sports bill that passed was swiftly suspended by a federal district court. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) came out against the Idaho bill and others like it and subsequently moved planned tournament games out of Idaho.
  • The Associated Press projected that the North Carolina bathroom bill could have cost the state $3.76 billion over 10 years.
  • During a fight over an anti-transgender bathroom bill in 2017, the Texas Association of Business estimated $8.5 billion in economic losses, risking 185,000 jobs in the process due to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and professional sporting event cancellations, a ban on taxpayer funded travel to those states, cancellation of movie productions, and businesses moving projects out of state.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organizations working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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Topics:
Transgender