School transgender policy defense bill clears first hurdle in Tennessee House

A new sticker designates a gender neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle. Bathrooms for transgender students have become political footballs again. (AP file photo/Elaine Thompson)

NASHVILLE - A bill directing the Tennessee attorney general in most instances to either defend or else approve funds for private attorneys to represent schools sued over their transgender policies cleared its first full House committee Tuesday.

The Republican-controlled Civil Justice Committee approved the measure on a 7-4 vote after considerable discussion on the bill, sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden.

Holt said his bill is to "offer protection to students from experiencing members of the opposite sex" using the same school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers as they do.

"Biological differences are real and they are objective and it is not discriminatory," Holt told committee members.

The bill is opposed by Gov. Bill Haslam on philosophical grounds. One version was originally sponsored by Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who later dropped the measure, with Holt picking it up.