Metro Weekly

Tennessee lawmakers want to force the attorney general to defend anti-trans schools

Republican Rep. Andy Holt claims the bill would protect students

Tennessee State Capitol building - Photo: photoua
Tennessee State Capitol building – Photo: photoua

A Tennessee bill that would force the state attorney general to defend schools that discriminate against transgender students has passed committee.

HB 2620 was voted through on Thursday and, should it become law, would require the AG to defend local school districts whose policies prevent transgender students and staff members from using their bathroom of choice.

Should a district be sued, the state would have to pay for any court fees and the district must be represented by the attorney general.

Speaking in a civil justice subcommittee meeting, state Rep. Andy Holt (R) said he sponsored the bill to protect students, and that it will allow school boards to make their own decisions on bathroom policies.

“In Williamson County, that may be three bathrooms,” he said. “That may be the policy that the school board says, now that’s the best idea.”

The bill has garnered criticism for being discriminatory against transgender and gender nonconforming youth. Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said that at its core HB 2620 will encourage bullying of and violence against vulnerable children and called for the bill to be abandoned.

“Members of the House should reject this bill and send a clear message to their constituents that Tennessee lawmakers are not in the business of emboldening discrimination and writing people’s prejudices about the transgender community into law,” Ellis said.

According to News Channel 5, a transgender Williamson County student has filed a challenge against the bill, saying that “all bathrooms should be private regardless of gender.”

A similar bill was filed in January, but it was withdrawn before it even had the chance to appear in a subcommittee hearing. Another bill met the same fate last year after it failed to receive a motion in a Senate committee last week.

Tennessee is not the only state that has entered into the bathroom bill debate. In February, a transgender student filed a discrimination lawsuit against his Indiana school for not letting him use the bathroom that matched his gender identity.

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