Metro Weekly

Tennessee officials face second lawsuit over anti-trans bathroom sign law

Independent record label owner's lawsuit is the second brought against Volunteer State officials over a law attacking businesses with trans-friendly restroom policies.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee – Photo: Facebook

An independent record label owner has filed a second lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s recently passed law that requires businesses and government buildings to post an anti-transgender notice on their premises if they allow transgender people to use restrooms matching their gender identity.

Mike Curb, the founder and chairman of Curb Records, an independent record label, and president of the Mike Curb Foundation, has filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of his businesses that challenges what critics have dubbed the “Business Bathroom Bill.”

Signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee (R) last month, the legislation, which mandates that establishments allowing transgender people to use multi-user restrooms that match their gender identity to post a red-and-yellow warning sign reading: “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”

“It’s outrageous to have the government come in and force me to send such a derogatory message to my employees and customers,” Curb said in a statement. “My grandmother Eloisa Salazar faced incredible discrimination as she grew up on the Mexico-U.S. border, and her experience shaped my family’s and my company’s values.”

Curb continued: “Our foundation has been dedicated to inclusion and nondiscrimination, including for LGBT people, from day one. It is hard to believe that our LGBT community in Tennessee is being assaulted with so much harmful legislation, much of it being signed by Governor Lee, at a time when our country needs to come together more than ever before.”

Enlisting the help of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Curb Records and the Mike Curb Foundation are challenging the law, claiming it violates the First Amendment rights of business owners by creating a content-based regulation of speech and compelling those owners to communicate a particular message through the sign — even if they do not agree with its assertions or its implicit message that transgender people pose a threat to others.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, also claims the law signed by Lee violated the Supremacy Clause, in which federal laws trump state laws if the two ever come into conflict. Because Curb Records, as an employer, is large enough that it is bound by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they are subject to the federal law’s prohibitions on sex-based discrimination.

Furthermore, because the installment of signs “singles out transgender employees for disparate treatment” and “subjects them to a hostile work environment” because of their gender identity, the Tennessee law conflicts with, and is thus pre-empted by, federal law.

Lastly, the lawsuit claims the law violates equal protection by unequally burdening Curb Records’ and the Curb Foundation’s exercise of their fundamental constitutional rights, requiring businesses that wish to promote equality and fairness toward transgender individuals to post a sign compelling a certain type of speech that creates “a hostile climate” for transgender employees.

Additionally, while other businesses that require gender-segregated facilities based on assigned sex at birth are exempt from the law, establishments like Curb Records and the Curb Foundation are required to pay out-of-pocket to install signs they believe are offensive and counter to the environment they are trying to foster.

The defendants in the lawsuit are Lee, in his official capacity as governor; Carter Lawrence, the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance; William Herbert IV, the director of the Nashville Department of Codes and Building Safety; and Glenn Funk, the District Attorney General for the 20th Judicial District of Tennessee.

See also: Tennessee will allow students to sue if they see a trans person using a multi-occupancy restroom

Curb, a Grammy award-winning producer who began his career in California before moving to Tennessee three decades ago, previously served as Acting Governor and elected Lieutenant Governor of California, and president of the California State Senate.

A former co-chair of Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 presidential campaign, Curb previously opposed California’s 1978 Briggs Initiative, which sought to bar gay and lesbian individuals from holding jobs as teachers.

Curb’s company has launched the careers of several successful country, rock, pop, R&B, gospel, and Christian rock artists. The company and foundation have provided grants and gifts in excess of $100 million to support various educational historic preservation and anti-homelessness initiatives in Tennessee, and has helped restore multiple historic sites across the state, including Elvis Presley’s former home in Memphis, RCA Studio B, Columbia Studio A, the Quonset Hut, and the Johnny Cash Collection in Nashville, as well as other historic buildings on Nashville’s Music Row.

See also:

U.S. State Department announces it will issue gender-neutral passports

California bans state-sponsored travel to five more states over anti-LGBTQ laws

Marjorie Taylor Greene says LGBTQ-inclusive school curriculums are ‘child abuse’

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