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Tennessee Bill That Places Restrictions on Boys' Use of Girls' Restrooms Faces a Legal Challenge

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Tennessee was hit Tuesday with a second legal challenge aimed at overturning a slate of transgender-related bills that Gov. Bill Lee signed into law earlier this year.

The federal lawsuit filed by the Human Rights Campaign challenges the state’s “bathroom bill,” a measure that places restrictions on boys’ ability to use girls’ restrooms and locker rooms.

“Courts have time-and-again ruled against these dangerous and discriminatory laws and we are going to fight in court to strike down this one and protect the civil rights of transgender and non-binary young people,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement.

“With our representation of two transgender kids today, we are sending a strong message of support for all transgender and non-binary children across the country — you matter, and your legal rights should be respected,” David added.

Tennessee Attorney General spokesperson Samantha Fisher said in an email the office was reviewing the lawsuit.

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Under Tennessee’s bathroom measure, a student, parent or employee can sue in an effort to claim monetary damages “for all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered” if school officials allow a person into the bathroom or locker room that does not align with their sex when others are in there.

They also can take legal action if required to stay in the same sleeping quarters as a person who identifies as a member of the opposite sex, unless that person is a family member.

For those transgender students or employees who want more privacy, the law says schools must try to offer a bathroom or changing facility that is single-occupancy.

The Human Rights Campaign filed the lawsuit on behalf of two transgender students currently enrolled in Tennessee schools.

Should Tennessee's bathroom law remain in place?

Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the law violates Title IX, the 1972 federal law that protects against sex discrimination in education. But Title IX was specifically designed to protect individuals on the basis of sex, an immutable characteristic.

Across the country, many female students have opened up about the discomfort of being forced to share a bathroom or locker room with biological boys.

In 2019, the school district for Palatine High School in Illinois voted to give transgender students “unrestricted access” to the school’s bathroom and changing facilities. A video cited by The Daily Signal and credited to the Daily Herald showed a female student crying at the decision, saying that she felt like her “privacy is being invaded.”

That same year, a group of female students at Pennsylvania Honesdale High School alleged that no one warned them that a new school policy permitted boys to change in the girls’ locker room.

One of the girls described how she was surprised to hear a man’s voice when she went to the locker room to change with a group of friends, and when she turned, the girl saw a boy “wearing women’s underwear and what was underneath it.”

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The female student and her parents alleged that when they informed the school’s principal and the superintendent of the incident, the girl was treated like the “problem” instead.

In June, the U.S. Education Department announced it would expand its interpretation of federal sex protections to include transgender and gay students. The new policy directive means that discrimination based on a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity will be treated as a violation of Title IX.

Just weeks later, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Virginia school board’s appeal to reinstate its transgender bathroom ban. While LGBTQ advocates declared the ruling a key victory for transgender rights, the court’s decision did not set a national precedent, which means the Tennessee case must still move through the court system.

Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged Tennessee’s first-of-its-kind law that requires businesses and government facilities to post signs if they let transgender people use multi-person public bathrooms of their choice.

A judge has since blocked it from being implemented as the lawsuit makes its way through court.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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