TN conservative pastors rally, pray in support of transgender student bathroom bill

Representatives from the Center for Equality, American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, LGBT supporters and members of the Human Rights Campaign stand on the front steps of the State Capitol to honor Trans Kids Support Visibility Day in Pierre, S.D. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. Gov. Dennis Daugaard heard from several transgender people during a meeting Tuesday at the Capitol, where advocates gathered to urge the governor to veto a bill that would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their sex at birth.

NASHVILLE - Conservative pastors rallied and prayed today in support of a controversial transgender student bathroom bill with Family Action Council President David Fowler calling on Tennessee lawmakers to show "courage" and "put their principles and their conscience above matters of mere economics."

The bill, opposed by some 60 major corporations including Cigna Health which has a large presence, is scheduled to come up later today in House and Senate finance panels.

Fowler, who was joined by some 30 pastors in front of an escalator heading up to the state Capitol, urged lawmakers to ignore the "false prophecies of gloom and doom" and companies and business groups retaliating against Tennessee by refusing to locate or expand operations and cancel conventions.

"By being here today, we hope that we can lend courage to the many in our Legislature who believe that little girl and that young woman deserve respect for their privacy and, moreover, deserve protection from those in our society who have shown that they will take advantage of the situation when public policy regarding bathrooms and locker rooms shifts from a biological understanding of sex to a psychological one," said Fowler, a former state senator from Signal Mountain.

Henry Seaton, an 18-year-old senior at Hendersonville's Beech High School who was born female but identifies as male, later told reporters that if the ministers want him to go to restrooms used by their wives and daughters, "I guess I will.

"Because I don't care where I use the restroom. They care about where I use the restroom."

He recently told a House panel he wasn't allowed to use either the bathroom for boys or girls, but instead had to go to a teachers' restroom that was locked half the time.

Earlier, Fowler sought to draw distinctions between a bill passed into law in North Carolina versus the one under consideration here in Tennessee. Fowler noted the North Carolina law, which has prompted at least two companies to cancel relocating or expanding in that state, is far broader than the Tennessee bill.

The Tennessee bill applies to multi-student bathrooms and locker rooms at public schools and colleges only.

Fowler also said the bill allows schools to come up with their own solutions since as providing individual restrooms for students or allowing students to use those designated for teachers in say the faculty lounge. Seaton said he has to use the faculty lounge and noted it is often locked.

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued a legal opinion last week stating that if the bill passes the state risks losing an estimated $1 billion in Title IX education funding under the Obama administration's interpretation of the provisions.

Prior to the news conference, Fowler told the pastors that many of the 60 corporations going on record against the Tennessee bill are based in San Francisco, which has a large LGBT population which applies to public schools and colleges only.

Back in February, some 80 clergy affixed their names to a statement calling the legislation "detrimental to transgender students by exposing them to violence and increase the likelihood that they will drop out of school or take their own lives."