Nashville’s District Attorney Glenn Funk won’t enforce Tennessee’s new transgender bathroom signage law, posing a direct challenge to the state legislature and Governor Bill Lee. The governor signed the bill into law last week; it will go into effect on July 1. In a statement shared with The Tennessee Star, Funk asserted that the law represents hate.
“I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville,” asserted Funk. “Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values. My office will not promote hate.”
Although the law includes a provision requiring entities or businesses to comply within 30 days, it doesn’t include any provisions for district attorneys that refuse to enforce the law.
Following Funk’s refusal, Lee gave reporters an ambiguous response.
“I think his decision will be his own,” said Lee. “I signed the law; it’s his decision how he wants to respond to it.”
In 2018, The Star reported that Lee supported local-level decisions over state-level decisions concerning transgender and gender identity usage of school bathrooms and locker rooms.
In response to a question concerning the ban of transgender bathrooms a year prior, Lee said that he disagreed with statewide policies handling those issues.
“[I] believe a statewide policy on an issue like that is not in the best interest of Tennesseans. It’s divisive and destructive and […] that’s government intervention into areas of life that I don’t think we ought to intervene,” said Lee.
Lee has had stronger reactions to Funk’s refusals of enforcing law in the past. After Funk announced he wouldn’t enforce the law requiring abortion providers to inform patients of available abortion reversal procedures, the governor subtweeted Funk.
“A district attorney purposefully disregarding current, duly enacted laws by the legislature is a grave matter that threatens our justice system and has serious consequences,” wrote Lee. “The rule of law is the cornerstone of our legal system, and we all take an oath to uphold the law, not to pick and choose what laws to follow based on politics or personal feelings.”
A district attorney purposefully disregarding current, duly enacted laws by the legislature is a grave matter that threatens our justice system and has serious consequences.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) September 24, 2020
According to the new state law, businesses or entities open to the public allow individuals to use any bathrooms or other facilities based on gender identity rather than biological sex. They must post a notice on the entrance to any facilities that are: open to the general public, designated for a specific biological sex, and a facility or area where a person would have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” This includes public restrooms, locker rooms, shower facilities, and dressing areas. It doesn’t include unisex, single-occupant restrooms or family restrooms open to either biological sex.
The sign must read:
“Notice: This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Gender Neutral Bathrooms” by tedeytan. CC BY-SA 2.0.