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Nashville DA nixes idea of enforcing transphobic business bathroom law

“I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville. Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values.”

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Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk (Screenshot courtesy of the Nashville DA Office)

NASHVILLE, TN. – The top law enforcement officer in Tennessee’s capital city told multiple media outlets Monday he won’t support a new law signed last week by Republican Governor Bill Lee that requires businesses, such as restaurants and retail stores, to post signs stating they allow trans people to use restrooms.

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

Lee signed HB 1182 (SB 1224), known as the ‘business bathroom bill’ last week 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.”

But it does not spell out penalties for not complying. The Associated Press reports that Memphis District Attorney Amy Weirich is also questioning whether the law is enforceable.

At a press conference this afternoon, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee didn’t have much to say about Funk’s comment, 90.3 FM WPLN News reported.

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

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Tennessee

Tennessee bans collegiate Trans athletes

The law also requires Tennessee colleges to determine a student-athlete’s gender using the student’s “original” birth certificate

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Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee/State of Tennessee YouTube

NASHVILLE – Republican Governor Bill Lee signed a bill last Friday that effectively bans transgender women from competing on college sports teams consistent with their gender identity in Tennessee.

The new law, Senate Bill 2153, “prohibits males from participating in public higher education sports that are designated for females.” The law also requires Tennessee colleges to determine a student-athlete’s gender using the student’s “original” birth certificate.

Every university and college in the state will also be required to adopt and enforce a policy ensuring compliance with the new law. The measure would also prevent any government entity, organization or athletic association from taking “an adverse action” against a school that complies with the law or a student who reports a violation.

“This law sends a horrible message that trans and nonbinary youth can be excluded from the many benefits of participating in sports,” Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, said Friday in a statement issued by the Human Rights Campaign. 

“More broadly, it also stains those who are complicit and creates habits of lawmaking that endanger everyone in Tennessee,” he said. “Legislation crafted from animus and ignorance protects no one.”

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Tennessee

Terminated CEO who bullied LGBTQ+ teen sues comedian Kathy Griffin

“Yep. This is what it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally. I will fight this suit and I will not settle. I don’t think he got fired because of me”

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Screenshot/WKRN News 2

NASHVILLE – The former Chief Executive Officer of a Franklin, Tennessee-based healthcare company, who was terminated a year ago after his homophobic tirade against a former LGBTQ high school student, announced that he was suing comedian Kathy Griffin claiming Griffin’s Tweets led to his dismissal.

Samuel Johnson, was fired by VisuWell in April 2021 hours after a Tik-Tok and Instagram reel went viral, which was also tweeted by Griffin.

Nahville ABC News affiliate WKRN 2 had first reported the story after a cell phone video posted to multiple social media platforms went viral. In the video taken at the Harpeth Hotel in downtown Franklin, Dalton Stevens, a senior at Franklin High School, was with his boyfriend and date Jacob Geittman when Johnson walked up to Stevens and ridiculed him for his formal prom attire, a red full length dress.

“Slander terms thrown towards me of like ‘You look bad,’ ‘You’ve got hair on your chest, you shouldn’t be wearing a dress,’ ‘You’re not a man,’ blah, blah, blah,” Stevens told WKRN. “The fact that he thought he had the audacity to come tell me what I was supposed to wear and what I was supposed to do because of his standards.”

Stevens told the station that, “I very much view clothes as genderless,” His boyfriend chimed in with “You can have your thoughts and opinions, [but] keep them to yourself,” Geittman said. “You don’t need to go up to a teenager in public on their prom night and publicly shame and harass them for what they decided to wear.”

In a series of tweets on the company’s Twitter account, VisuWell issued a formal statement then added that “in response to those asking for additional clarity on Sam Johnson’s termination as CEO, we can confirm that Mr. Johnson is no longer employed by VisuWell in any capacity.

He no longer has a position on the Board of Directors or any informal advisory role. His behavior was not representative of our values, which include respect and compassion for all.”

After filing his suit in U.S. District Court Johnson tweeted:

Griffin responded: “Yep. This is what it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally. I will fight this suit and I will not settle. I don’t think he got fired because of me. I hope these kids are ok.”

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Tennessee

New law restricts funding to schools allowing Trans students to play sports

“Telling transgender students that they can’t participate as who they really are amounts to excluding them from sports entirely”

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Tennessee State Flag (Blade file photo)

NASHVILLE – Republican Governor Bill Lee signed a bill last Friday that allows for the withholding of state funds from any Tennessee school districts that don’t comply with the trans-exclusionary law Lee signed in March of 2021, Senate Bill 228.

The law, S.B. 228, bans trans children from participating on middle and high school sports teams that match their gender by requiring student athletes to prove the sex they were assigned at birth with an “original” birth certificate or other forms of proof. 

Written into the language of the law, Tennessee’s Department of Education would withhold a portion of state funds from local school districts that fail to determine a student’s gender for participation in middle or high school sports. The measure does not specify exactly how much money should be withheld by the state.

“Telling transgender students that they can’t participate as who they really are amounts to excluding them from sports entirely – depriving them of opportunities available to their peers and sending the message that they are not worthy of a full life,” said Henry Seaton, ACLU of Tennessee’s transgender justice advocate, in a statement.

Last Fall, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Tennessee and Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit on behalf of Luc Esquivel, a 14-year-old boy from Knoxville, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, arguing that the law is discriminatory and unconstitutional. 

Tennessee lawmakers are also advancing a separate bill that would ban transgender athletes from participating in female college sports. Republicans have also pushed another measure to let teachers and school districts use the pronoun that a transgender student does not prefer, exempting teachers from facing employment punishment and protecting schools from civil liability. Both proposals are expected to clear the General Assembly, the Associated Press reported.

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