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AP file photo by Mark Humphrey / Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters on Jan. 19, 2021, in Nashville.

Tennessee businesses beware. You are now subject to being spied on and reported to the state bathroom police.

You, of course, never had a state government mandate to close or open or to make your workers and patrons mask up during the worst pandemic in at least a century — a pandemic that killed more than 12,000 Tennesseans.

But, by goodness, you now have a Tennessee government mandate — complete with penalties if you don't comply — to bathroom-shame yourselves, your workers and your customers.

Tennessee Gov. "Bathroom Bill" Lee and his like-minded transgender-scared GOP lawmakers last week made Tennessee a laughing stock nationwide with a first-ever state law requiring businesses to post a sign if they let transgender people use multiperson bathrooms, locker rooms or changing rooms associated with their gender identity.

In other words, business folks, if you think bathroom business is a private matter, you must place a 8-inch by 6-inch red and bright yellow disclaimer sign on or prominently beside each of your bathroom doors.

And that sign, in boldface block letters, must read:

"This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom."

And if you don't post this hateful, anti-LGBTQ sign?

Well, Tennessee business owners and operators, you risk being charged with misdemeanor crimes punishable by fines and even jail if you ignore this latest in a string of new Tennessee "bathroom" laws involving access for transgender patrons.

And, no, Bathroom Bill and the gang were absolutely not transparent in the way they crafted this law. The criminal penalty provision in House Bill 1182/Senate Bill 1224 was not and is not made explicit in the legislation.

Instead, according to one of the bill sponsors, the penalty provision is tucked into "a sub-reference, that [means] anything violating this code is subbed over to another code," said Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro.

The "sub-reference" adds into the law provisions that outline penalties for violations of state construction, fire, health and other codes.

Listen up, business and government folks: You have 30 days after July 1 (or after being reported on) to correct the issue. If you don't, you could be subject to penalties up up to six months in jail and fines of up to $500 if charged and convicted. That's the same penalty applied to people convicted of prostitution and reckless driving.

Rudd acknowledges that "right now" there is no state department — read here state designated bathroom police — overseeing this.

But, he said, under the legislation "it could very well be that someone could press charges, via a DA or a sheriff to investigate."

Nashville's brave top prosecutor has said he will refuse to enforce what he calls "hate" under Tennessee's new law on bathroom access for transgender people.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston's spokesman Bruce Garner told this page Tuesday: "We have no cases like this before us, so it would be premature to offer a comment on this issue. General Pinkston prefers not to make blanket statements about potential future prosecutions."

So there you have it, business and government folks:

You really weren't required to do much to stop the spread of a deadly virus except to ask your customers and workers, pretty please, to mask up, and now you've been prohibited from requiring your workers or your customers to get a vaccine or show that they have.

But woe be unto you if you don't post this "scarlet letter" of a sign about gender choice on each of your bathroom doors.

Apparently in Tennessee, when it comes to freedom, it's the GOP's way or the highway.

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