The bill, which would also apply to locker rooms and other dressing areas that are separated by sex, says the signs must read: “THIS FACILITY MAINTAINS A POLICY OF ALLOWING THE USE OF RESTROOMS BY EITHER BIOLOGICAL SEX, REGARDLESS OF THE DESIGNATION ON THE RESTROOM.” The legislation states that the mandate would not apply to “a unisex, single-occupant restroom or family restroom intended for use by” people of either sex.
It also comes at a time when GOP-controlled states have been passing laws that advocates say restrict trans rights.
CNN has reached out to Lee’s office for comment on the bill and whether he plans to sign the measure. The governor has 10 days from when the bill is received to sign or veto it, or take no action, which allows the bill to become law.
Though the legislation doesn’t define what “biological sex” means, the term has been used by conservative lawmakers around the country to refer to one’s sex as determined at the time of birth based on their reproductive biology and genetics. While sex is a category that refers broadly to physiology, a person’s gender is an innate sense of identity. The factors that go into determining the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate may include anatomy, genetics and hormones, and there is broad natural variation in each of these categories.
For this reason, the language of “biological sex,” as used in this legislation, can be overly simplistic and misleading.
“House Bill 1182 is a discriminatory piece of legislation crafted to generate the maximum amount of harm to Tennessee’s transgender community,” Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David said in a statement, which said the bill is forcing trans-inclusive businesses to “post offensive and humiliating signage.”
And Hedy Weinberg, the ACLU of Tennessee’s executive director, called the legislation “another attempt by state legislators to erase trans people and could lead to harassment and aggression against trans people and trans-inclusive businesses” and called on Lee to oppose the bill.
But Jennifer Easton, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee House Republicans, argued in a statement to CNN that the bill “does not prohibit anyone from using a bathroom of their choosing or discriminate against any person or group.”
“The only thing this legislation does is require public places with unisex bathrooms to post signage letting people know if bathrooms are unisex. That’s it. Nothing more,” she added.
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