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Tennessee Governor signs anti-Transgender student bathroom bill

This bill is the third anti-Trans legislation signed by Governor Lee following other anti-Trans laws and anti-LGBTQ legislation

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Tennessee Governor Bill Lee addresses lawmakers earlier this year (Screenshot TN State Government YouTube channel)

NASHVILLE, TN. – Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee last Friday quietly signed House Bill 1233, an anti-Trans bill that requires the state’s public schools to make “reasonable accommodation” for a person who cannot or will not use a restroom or changing facility designated for their sex in a public school building or at a school-sponsored activity.

The law stipulates that a person’s sex is “a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.” It further defines “reasonable accommodation” as having access to a “single-occupancy restroom or changing facility” or “use of an employee restroom or changing facility.”

“A reasonable accommodation does not include access to a restroom or changing facility that is designated for use by members of the opposite sex while persons of the opposite sex are present or could be present,” the bill reads.

The law drew backlash and severe criticism from LGBTQ advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, (HRC), who labeled it as part of the 2021 “Slate of Hate” bills rippling through the Tennessee state legislature, along with the anti-transgender sports and business bathroom bills.

“These anti-equality pieces of legislation are being pushed by national extremist groups and peddled by lawmakers in Tennessee in an effort to sow fear and division,” HRC said in a statement.

This bill is the third anti-Trans legislation signed by Lee this session, following SB 228 an anti-transgender sports ban, and SB 1229, a sweeping anti-LGBTQ education bill.

Lee also signed HB 1182 (SB 1224), known as the ‘business bathroom bill’ that would require businesses that don’t actively prevent transgender people from using the restroom consistent with their gender identity to post an offensive and outrageous sign warning that transgender people might be inside. The legislation was sent to him earlier this month after its passage by state lawmakers.

The law reads: “Public Buildings – As introduced, requires a public or private entity or business that operates a building or facility open to the general public to post a notice at the entrance of each public restroom and at each entrance of the building of the entity’s or business’s policy of allowing a member of either biological sex to use any public restroom within the building or facility, if the entity or business maintains such a policy.”

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Congress

House passes resolution demanding Brittney Griner’s immediate release

Detained WNBA star’s trial to begin on July 1

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A participant in the Capital Pride parade parade in D.C. demands Brittney Griner's release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — In a resolution passed on June 24 by the U.S. House of Representatives, lawmakers called on Russia to immediately release detained WNBA star Brittney Griner. 

Griner was first arrested in Russia in the days leading up to its invasion in Ukraine. Authorities have charged her with drug trafficking after claiming that she attempted to pass through Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while in possession of cannabis oil. 

The House’s resolution, introduced in May by U.S. Reps. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) and Colin Allred (D-Texas), made multiple demands of Russia, including that the country “immediately release Brittney Griner,” provide her with consular access and humane treatment and that the U.S. “raise the case of Brittney Griner and to press for her release” in all its dealings with the Russian government.

“This legislation insists on our embassy personnel having access to Ms. Griner and restates our commitment to freeing her now,” Lee said in a statement after introducing the resolution. “We continue to pray for her family and we will continue to work together as three members of Congress, along with others, to spread the message that she is held wrongfully and must be freed now.”

The resolution also expressed support for both Griner’s family and for “all prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation.”

Allred, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, took to Twitter following the passage of the resolution.

“I’m proud the House has spoken in passing our resolution and calling for Brittney Griner’s swift release,” Allred wrote. “Every day an American is held abroad is a lifetime, and I will keep working with @POTUS to do all we can to bring home every American detained abroad.”

Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, welcomed the House’s passage of the resolution this past weekend.

“[Rep.] Stanton and many others are continuing to work with the White House, State Department and Brittney’s family to secure her safe return home,” the team wrote on Twitter.

The resolution comes after reporting revealed missteps on the part of the U.S. government in handling communication related to Griner’s detention. 

According to past reporting, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow failed to connect Griner with outside phone calls permitted by the Russian government when Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, attempted to call her. Cherelle Griner reportedly called 11 times on June 18 on the couple’s fourth anniversary but was unable to reach her wife due to what the State Department claimed to be a “logistical error.”

While the resolution is being heralded by its supporters, it contains no provisions intended to enforce the House’s demands for the release and humane treatment of Griner and others held by Russia. With less than one percent of criminal defendants in Russia being acquitted, it is unclear whether the resolution will do anything to persuade the country’s courts to permit Griner’s release.

Griner appeared in Russian court on Monday for a preliminary hearing prior to her trial that has now been scheduled to begin on July 1. It was also confirmed by Griner’s attorney on Monday that her detention had been extended for six months pending her trial. 

If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.

“We must keep Brittney’s case on the forefront and make clear to the White House that her release should be one of the highest priorities for our government,” Cherelle Griner said in May.

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Nevada

Sparks, Nevada drag queen story hour disrupted by armed Proud Boy

A Proud Boy approached the library while carrying a gun, causing everyone, including children, to run into the library for safety

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Screenshot/KRNV

SPARKS, Nv. – An armed man later identified as part of a group of Proud Boys disrupted a drag queen story hour at the Sparks Library Sunday afternoon Reno media outlet KRNV (NBC News 4 and Fox 11) reported.

According to KRNV’s account during the event, a group of Proud Boys protested against LGBTQ+ rights outside of the Sparks Library.

The KRNV crew covering the reading event said when the protest came to an end, a man wearing Proud Boys clothing approached the library while carrying a gun, causing everyone, including children, to run into the library for safety.

The Sparks Police Department monitored the protest from a distance, but left soon after. There were no police present when the man approached the building.

Nevada is an open-carry state and according to the Nevada State Police unless a sign is posted or the person is accused of brandishing a weapon, technically for appearances sake, no law was broken or regulation violated Sunday.

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Tennessee

Felony arrest in vandalism of Pride Merch at Knoxville Target store

Jonathan Burns was arrested after he was identified by investigators as the suspect in spray-painting a section of LGBTQ+ Pride merchandise

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Arrest mugshot of Jonathan Burns courtesy of the Knox County, Tennessee Sheriff's Office

KNOXVILLE – A thirty-one-year-old West Knox resident was arrested last week by the Knoxville Police Department, with the help of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and charged with felony vandalism at a local Target store.

Jonathan Burns was arrested after he was identified by investigators as the suspect in spray-painting a section of LGBTQ+ Pride clothing & merchandise.

Knoxville NBC News affiliate WBIR-TV, Channel 10 reported:

On June 13 at 2:49 p.m., Burns entered the Target on Parkside Drive and spray-painted an entire section of merchandise placed out for Pride Month, KPD said. 

Burns damaged $3,884 worth of clothing, according to KPD. They also said he used red spray paint to destroy the entire section of items as well as a sign in the section, and it was the only section that was vandalized. The sign cost an additional $16 in damages. 

An employee had approached Burns and asked him to leave, according to a KPD report.

When Burns left the Target, he dropped the spray paint can on the ground. Fingerprints on the can confirmed Burns’ identity. Evidence of him purchasing the spray paint and a bucket hat from local retail prior to the incident was secured. Video from Target and the retailer where the paint and hat were purchased depicted Burns wearing the same clothing, the report said.

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