Judge Blocks Tennessee Anti-Trans Restroom Sign Law

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July 9, 2021

Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN, (615) 320-7142
Tyler Richard, ACLU, trichard@aclu.org, (402) 202-6211

NASHVILLE, Tenn. A federal judge today blocked a new law in Tennessee that required businesses and other entities that allow transgender people to use the public restroom that matches their gender to post a government-prescribed warning sign.

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of business owners Kye Sayers and Bob Bernstein who object to the stigmatizing message they would be required to display, states that the law violates the First Amendment and asks the court for a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the law while the lawsuit proceeds. 

The court’s decision recognized that Restaurants and performing spaces are businesses, but that is not all they are; they are also among the most important physical locations in which communities — so often consigned, in this era, to electronic space — can gather and grow together in a manner rooted in a particular neighborhood, in a particular city, in a particular state. The plaintiffs have presented evidence that they have strived to be welcoming spaces for communities that include transgender individuals and that the signage required by the Act would disrupt the welcoming environments that they wish to provide. That harm would be real, and it is not a harm that could simply be remedied by some award at the end of litigation.” 

“This law is bad for businesses in Tennessee and most importantly harmful to transgender people,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director. “We are glad the court saw that this law is likely unconstitutional and hope that the state gives up the wasteful effort to defend discrimination and a violation of the First Amendment.” 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kye Sayers, owner of the Sanctuary performing arts and community center in Chattanooga, and Bob Bernstein, owner of Fido restaurant in Nashville. Both businesses have informal policies allowing customers to determine which restroom is appropriate for them, and have not had any complaints or concerns raised about their restroom policies.

“I am glad the court saw that forcing businesses to display a sign that hurts transgender and intersex people is unconstitutional,” said Kye Sayers, owner of Sanctuary, a performing arts and community center in Chattanooga. These signs would have damaged our businesses and the environment we have tried to create for our community, customers, and staff.”

“I’m happy that the court stopped this invasive and decisive legislation for now and am hopeful this leads to a permanent ban of an unconstitutional violation of my freedom of speech rights,” said Bob Bernstein, owner of Fido, a restaurant in Nashville.  

The court’s opinion can be found at: https://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/022-Memorandum-Opinion.pdf.

The order is available online at: https://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/023-Order.pdf.

More information about this case can be found at: https://www.aclu.org/cases/bongo-productions-llc-et-al-v-lawrence-et-al


2021-07-09T14:14:32-05:00 July 9th, 2021|Categories: Press Releases|