NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee will become the first state in the United States to require businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they let transgender people use multiperson bathrooms, locker rooms or changing rooms associated with their gender identity.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill Monday that represents a first-of-its-kind law, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group that decried the bill as discriminatory and said the required signs are “offensive and humiliating.” The law will go into effect July 1.
Lee, who is up for reelection next year, had previously been mum on whether he would sign the bill. Instead, he told reporters earlier this month that he always had “concerns about business mandates” but was still reviewing the bill.
Lee’s approval came just a few days after he signed legislation that puts public schools and their districts at risk of losing civil lawsuits if they let transgender students or employees use multiperson bathrooms or locker rooms that do not reflect their sex at birth. It was the first bill restricting bathroom use by transgender people signed in any state in about five years, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Lee also signed a different proposal this year that bars transgender athletes from playing girls public high school or middle school sports.
Republican statehouses have been awash in culture war legislation across the country this year, particularly focusing on the LGBT community. Tennessee has been the front lines on that fight, with civil rights advocates pointing out that only Texas has filed more anti-LGBT bills in the country.
Yet, to date, there has been no big, tangible repercussion where bills have passed targeting transgender people, unlike the swift backlash from the business community to North Carolina’s 2016 “bathroom bill.” In Tennessee, the bills are becoming law despite letters of opposition from prominent business interests.
According to the bill signed Monday, the required sign outside the public bathroom or other facility would say: “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”
However, questions remain about how the law will be enforced and what, if any, consequences will stem from ignoring it. The law doesn’t spell out fines, penalties or any other mechanism to ensure the signs are put up when required.
Republican Rep. Tim Rudd, the bill’s sponsor, said no state department will oversee compliance with the law. Instead, Rudd said, local district attorneys could seek a court order to require a facility to post the sign. If an entity refused to comply, “it would open the door for whatever judicial remedies the court deems appropriate,” Rudd said.
Additionally, it’s possible that noncompliance could lead to civil liability, Rudd said.
“Whether you’re a man or woman, don’t you want to know who might be waiting on the other side of a bathroom door when you go in?” Rudd said in a statement. “Everyone has a