FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2016
Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN communications director, (615) 320-7142
NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam urging him to take a public stand opposing legislation that would prohibit transgender students from accessing restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
“This legislation calls for one group of students to be treated differently from others. Not only is that unlawful discrimination, it can have a devastating impact on young people who are already under tremendous stress and at greater risk of bullying,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. “The governor has a real opportunity here to be a leader in ensuring that transgender students are treated with dignity and respect just like everyone else.”
Republican South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard recently vetoed a similar measure, noting that it “does not address any pressing issue” faced by schools in his state. He changed his position on the bill after meeting with transgender youth and their parents and realizing how such a law would impact them.
Tennessee’s HB 2414/SB 2387 is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee on March 8, 2016.
According to ACLU-TN’s letter, “Excluding transgender students from using the same restrooms as other students deprives them of equal access to educational opportunity in violation of Title IX…The U.S. Department of Education has said that Title IX requires schools to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity when separating students in different facilities, such as restrooms.”
In addition, ACLU-TN’s letter explains, “excluding transgender students from the same restrooms used by other students also violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. There is no important government interest—or any interest—that justifies this differential treatment of transgender students based on their gender identity.”
Tennessee will receive an estimated $682,495,286 in funding from the U.S. Department of Education in 2016. According to ACLU-TN’s letter, “SB 2387/HB 2414 put our state at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds.”
ACLU-TN’s letter urges the governor to promote a safe and supportive environment for transgender students by speaking out about the proposed legislation before it advances any farther.
A copy of the letter sent today is available here.