Chattanooga transgender physician joins advocates in opposing bathroom bill

Chattanooga transgender physician joins advocates in opposing bathroom bill

April 13th, 2016 by Andy Sher in Politics State
“"As a doctor, I know that there are safe, effective and supportive ways of supporting transgender youth and all transgender people. That does not include forcing them into situations that put them at risk of harassment and physical harm."”
Renee McLaughlin

NASHVILLE - Cigna Health Care's Chattanooga-based senior medical director, a physician and transgender woman, joined with LGBT groups and the ACLU today in denouncing Tennessee legislation that would require transgender students to use school bathrooms based on the gender listed on their birth certificates.

During the state Capitol news conference, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, announced more companies have joined in opposing the bill, which could come up in the Senate Finance Committee today.

The 50-company list includes the heads of Northrup Grumman, Airbnb, Hilton Worldwide and T-Mobile U.S. Advocates then went to deliver executives' letter to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.

Earlier, Renee McLaughlin told reporters that as an employee and an employer "I know how important it is to attract the best talent to our organizations. I also know that a diverse workforce and a diverse comunity is a key to our success and enhance our productivity and our overall creativity. I know this because I work for a Tennessee employer, Cigna Health Care, that employs over 3,000 Tennesseans."

She also read a statement from Cigna in which the company states its opposition to the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, which could come up in the Senate Finance Committee today.

The statement says that "Cigna values and embraces diversity and we strive to treat all our employees and customers with the dignity and the respect that they deserve. We think that this misquided legislation is a step in the wrong direction.

"Not only would it be harmful for the health and well being of the LGBT community, it would be harmful to society as a whole because it discriminates against a distinct class of individuals," the statement continues. "Cigna opposes all legislation that is discriminatory," the statement says. "We respectfully urge state leadership to reject it."

On Tuesday, a spokesman for President Barack Obama called the bill "mean-spirited."

But Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, sponsor of the Senate bathroom measure, said in a statement responding to the charge that opponents' view  "is not about equal rights or civil rights - it is about special rights. It is not surprising that the Obama administration in their own words is 'promoting and defending' this action, while ignoring the safety and privacy of young women and girls."

McLaughlin said that under the bill, if she decided to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, "I will be required to use the male restroom. I know that will put me in harm's way."

Bell's legislation ran into problems earlier this week after Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a legal opinion that it puts at risk some $1 billion in federal Title IX education funds for public schools and colleges because of the Obama administration's interpretation of Title IX.