Nashville DA will not enforce trans bathroom signage bill in Tennessee

Nashville’s top prosecutor will stand against the state legislature and refuse to enforce what he calls “hate” under a new Tennessee law on bathroom access for transgender people. 

Gov. Bill Lee last week signed a bill making Tennessee the first state 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.

Opponents of the law call the bill discriminatory. LGBTQ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign said the signs would be “offensive and humiliating.”

“I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville. Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values,” District Attorney General Glenn Funk said in a statement Monday. “My office will not promote hate.”

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.”

RELATED: ‘Looking to erase us’: Tennessee parents, advocates criticize Gov. Lee for anti-LGBTQ bills

MORE: ‘Why do they hate us so much?’: Frustration grows among transgender Tennesseans as bills targeting youth advance

It remains unclear how anyone would enforce the law. The bill does not include details on mandatory fines or penalties. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the law carries criminal penalties. 

RELATED: Tennessee bill mandating bathroom signs called ‘humiliating’ for transgender people

Nashville Mayor John Cooper also decried the bill, questioning last week the economic impact of the state taking a strong anti-trans stance. 

“This law is part of an anti-LGBT political platform of hate and division. One of the risks for Nashville is that the hostility inherent to these signs can be the equivalent of hanging up another sign — a ‘do not come here’ sign,” Cooper said in a statement. “We are an inclusive city, and that won’t change. But, unfortunately, we will be made vulnerable economically by this unwelcoming legislation.”

Lee, who in the past has had “concerns about business mandates,” demurred on Monday afternoon when asked whether Funk’s statement was appropriate.

“His decision will be his own,” Lee told reporters. “I signed the law and it’ll be his decision how he wants to respond to it.”

This is not the first time Funk has taken a stance against a conservative push from the state legislature. 

Last fall, he sided with reproductive rights advocates and abortion providers when they sued the state over a slate of strict anti-abortion laws passed last summer by Republicans. 

Funk and other local prosecutors were named as defendants because of their roles prosecuting criminal cases. Multiple court cases over the laws continue in federal court. 

“With regard to reproductive issues, the criminal law must not be used by the State to exercise control over a woman’s body,” Funk, a Democrat, wrote in a September filing, saying he “will not enforce” the law if it goes

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Nashville DA Glenn Funk can refuse to enforce the transgender bathroom sign law, lawyers say

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk is not backing down on his decision to not enforce the controversial transgender bathroom sign legislation once it becomes law July 1.

This is despite backlash from Republican lawmakers including East Tennessee Representative John Ragan who said the action from Funk is “offensive.”

The law requires businesses to notify the public if their bathrooms are inclusive.

“Every person is welcomed and valued in Nashville. Enforcement of transphobic and homophobic laws is contrary to those values. My office will not promote hate,” Funk said in a letter.

Abby Rubenfeld, a Nashville Civil Rights attorney with Rubenfeld Law Office said, “General Funk’s response was completely appropriate, I mean he has limited resources, he has to make priorities about enforcement of laws and that’s just the accepted part of his job.”

There’s been continued outcry from Republican lawmakers who say it’s their job to write the laws and its Funk’s job to enforce them.

“The only thing, I think that’s different about this situation is — it’s a controversial law and then the district attorney has taken a more blanket approach,” said Melanie Wilson, Lindsay Young Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

Funk also said district attorneys have “discretion of when and under what circumstances to enforce laws enacted by the legislative branch and signed by the executive.”

Something Wilson, a former federal prosecutor, says is correct.

“Even in Tennessee there are Attorney General opinions, there’s a statue that gives broad unfettered discretion to the prosecution to pick and choose and I think it’s likely that the district attorney is going to be upheld in exercising his discretion,” Wilson said.

Tennessee is the first state to require such signage, something Rubenfeld says will be struck down if challenged in court.

“I mean these laws are unconstitutional and our legislature should quit wasting time,” Rubenfeld said. “I mean we have an attorney general who could’ve given them an opinion before they passed it that it was unconstitutional and it’s unnecessary, that’s the more important point to me.”

It’s unclear how the law will be enforced or if any other district attorney will also refuse to enforce the law.

News 2 reached out to Rep. John Ragan for comment and received an emailed statement in part saying Funk is acting outside of his legal authority.

District Attorney General Funk maintains that he has complete discretion to declare that he, alone, “has the discretion to decide when and under what circumstances to enforce laws enacted by the legislature and signed by the executive branch.” If this sounds like an individual is exercising power that “is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind,” that’s because it certainly

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Nashville DA won’t enforce new bathroom sign law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville’s top prosecutor said Monday that he will not enforce a newly enacted law that requires businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they let transgender people use multiperson bathrooms and other facilities associated with their gender identity.

“I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville,” Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk said in a statement. “Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values. My office will not promote hate.”

Funk’s office clarified that this refusal to enforce “transphobic or homophobic laws” specifically included the first-of-its kind measure signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee earlier this month.

The move, along with the flurry of other anti-transgender laws approved by Lee, has sparked alarm among LGBTQ advocates. Many have decried the latest measure as discriminatory and said the required signs are “offensive and humiliating.” The law will go into effect July 1.

However, questions have remained about how specifically it will be enforced.

Republican Rep. Tim Rudd, who sponsored the legislation, told a legislative committee in March that the bill “does not provide any fines or penalties at this point,” and the amended version passed by that committee became law. Rudd has also said that the law could be enforced by people filing lawsuits or district attorneys asking a judge to force businesses to comply.

Yet Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference President Amy Weirich argued that the language in the new law “doesn’t speak to anything having to do with enforcement.”

“The way it’s written, I don’t see anything that allows or provides me the responsibility or right to go to civil court and ask a judge to enforce it,” said Weirich, Shelby County’s district attorney.

Lee did not have a strong reaction when pressed by reporters Monday on Funk’s refusal to enforce the bathroom sign law.

“I think his decision will be his own,” he said. “I signed the law; it’s his decision how he wants to respond to it.”

Lee’s response was markedly different than when Funk announced in September he would not enforce a new law that required abortion providers to tell their patients it may be possible to reverse the action of abortion medication half-way through the procedure. Funk said at the time he believed the law was unconstitutional.

Without naming Funk, Lee’s office tweeted that, “A district attorney purposefully disregarding current, duly enacted laws by the legislature is a grave matter that threatens our justice system and has serious consequences.”

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Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.

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Nashville DA won’t enforce new bathroom sign law | National News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville’s top prosecutor said Monday that he will not enforce a newly enacted law that requires businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they let transgender people use multiperson bathrooms and other facilities associated with their gender identity.

“I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville,” Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk said in a statement. “Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values. My office will not promote hate.”

Funk’s office clarified that this refusal to enforce “transphobic or homophobic laws” specifically included the first-of-its kind measure signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee earlier this month.

The move, along with the flurry of other anti-transgender laws approved by Lee, has sparked alarm among LGBTQ advocates. Many have decried the latest measure as discriminatory and said the required signs are “offensive and humiliating.” The law will go into effect July 1.

However, questions have remained about how specifically it will be enforced.

Republican Rep. Tim Rudd, who sponsored the legislation, told a legislative committee in March that the bill “does not provide any fines or penalties at this point,” and the amended version passed by that committee became law. Rudd has also said that the law could be enforced by people filing lawsuits or district attorneys asking a judge to force businesses to comply.

Yet Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference President Amy Weirich argued that the language in the new law “doesn’t speak to anything having to do with enforcement.”

“The way it’s written, I don’t see anything that allows or provides me the responsibility or right to go to civil court and ask a judge to enforce it,” said Weirich, Shelby County’s district attorney.

Lee did not have a strong reaction when pressed by reporters Monday on Funk’s refusal to enforce the bathroom sign law.

“I think his decision will be his own,” he said. “I signed the law; it’s his decision how he wants to respond to it.”

Lee’s response was markedly different than when Funk announced in September he would not enforce a new law that required abortion providers to tell their patients it may be possible to reverse the action of abortion medication half-way through the procedure. Funk said at the time he believed the law was unconstitutional.

Without naming Funk, Lee’s office tweeted that, “A district attorney purposefully disregarding current, duly enacted laws by the legislature is a grave matter that threatens our justice system and has serious consequences.”

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Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.

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