Tennessee Special Session Targeting Transgender Students Would be Expensive Failure in Leadership

HRC staff

Today, HRC released the following statement after news reports emerged today that lawmakers in Tennessee are considering a special session in order to target transgender students and write discrimination into state law.

“Tennessee lawmakers should learn the lessons of what happened in North Carolina, where dangerous and shameful attempts to target transgender students have harmed countless North Carolinians, done millions of dollars of economic damage to the state, damaged the state’s reputation, and cost jobs,” said HRC Communications Director Jay Brown. “Tennessee lawmakers who go down this road are gambling with the lives and safety of real people and their economy. The hateful bill that passed North Carolina has drawn opposition from hundreds of major employers who have said that putting transgender people at risk for discrimination is not just wrong, but bad for business.”

In North Carolina, 200 companies have spoken out and demanded the repeal of HB2, which discriminates against transgender students and forces them to use restrooms inconsistent with their gender identity. Since North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2 into law, the state has lost at least 1750 jobs and suffered millions of dollars in economic damage.

There is bipartisan opposition to laws that target transgender people. South Dakota’s Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill earlier this year that targeted transgender students for discrimination. A CNN/ORC poll recently found 6 in 10 people oppose laws like North Carolina’s HB2, which discriminates against transgender people. Tennessee Gov. Haslam also previously spoke out against anti-transgender bills in the state.

One academic study this year found that restricting restrooms for transgender teens correlates with a high suicide rate. Similarly, another study this year found that transgender youth who are allowed to express their gender identity have good mental health outcomes.

Already, 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books allowing transgender people equal protections and the ability to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. More than 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted similar policies and continued to function without the costly creation of new facilities or disruption of their businesses.

Multiple fact checkers have found that there have been no recorded examples of public safety incidents from these policies.

Last week, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued guidance for school districts to ensure transgender students are treated with dignity in public and federally-funded schools, including having equal access to restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. While this guidance is consistent with previous guidelines and enforcement by the Departments, the treatment of transgender students has become national issue following the recent passage of the discriminatory HB2 law in North Carolina. Among its shameful provisions, HB2 prohibits public school students from using restrooms and other school facilities consistent with their gender identity.

For several years, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice have been interpreting and enforcing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sex stereotyping as unlawful sex discrimination. Additionally the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit recently upheld the Department of Education’s assertion that the nation’s civil rights laws protect transgender students from discrimination, including in the provision of bathrooms.

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