Bill affecting transgender use of restrooms and dressing rooms loses Senate sponsor

Bill affecting transgender use of restrooms and dressing rooms loses Senate sponsor

January 13th, 2012 by Andy Sher in News

An exterior view of the Tennessee State Capitol building.

Photo by The Tennessean /Times Free Press.

POLL: Should transgender people be required to use the bathroom of their birth gender?

NASHVILLE - Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, on Thursday withdrew the Senate version of a controversial House measure requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms and dressing rooms that match their birth gender.

Watson, who is chairman of the Hamilton County legislative delegation, said he sponsored the bill as a standard courtesy to local House members. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga.

"I understand Rep. Floyd's passion about the issue, but we have more pressing issues before us that we need to focus our attention on and we don't need to get sidetracked," Watson said.

Floyd said earlier Thursday he introduced the bill after reading a news story about a Texas woman who said she was fired from Macy's after stopping a male teen dressed as a woman from using a dressing room.

"It could happen here," Floyd said. "I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there - I don't care if he thinks he's a woman and tries on clothes with them in there - I'd just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.

"Don't ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk," he said. "We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he's a woman and he's a man and wants to try on women's clothes, let him take them into the men's bathroom or dressing room."

The bill would charge violators with a misdemeanor carrying a $50 fine.

The bill drew swift condemnation on gay and liberal blogs.

Jonathan Cole of the Tennessee Equality Project dubbed it the "Police the Potty" bill.

He noted that state law already prohibits Tennessee natives from amending their gender on birth certificates, even after undergoing medical procedures to change gender.

Cole called the legislation "one of the most vicious attack bills ever filed against transgender people in state government."

On the Huffington Post's Gay Voices blog, Scottie Thomaston, a self-described "queer and criminal justice rights and disability rights activist and writer," attacked the bill and the Tennessee General Assembly.

He accused state lawmakers of "proposing and passing some of the most homophobic and transphobic bills in the country - it is, after all, the state that passed HB600 stripping local jurisdictions of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] antidiscrimination provisions."

He also cited two other pending bills, one that exempts schools from an antibullying law when students' criticism is based on their religious beliefs. Critics call it the "license to bully" bill.

Another measure, dubbed as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, prohibits teachers from discussing homosexuality in kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms.