'Bathroom Bill’ Targeting Transgender Students Pulled In Tennessee After Flurry Of Lobbying | Nashville Public Radio

'Bathroom Bill’ Targeting Transgender Students Pulled In Tennessee After Flurry Of Lobbying

Apr 18, 2016

A measure that would have made transgender students use the bathroom of their birth sex has been withdrawn.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, says there are just too many questions about it still remaining. 

Tennessee lawmakers plan to wrap up the legislative session later this week. Lynn sees no need to rush.

"We just want to protect children at the state level," Lynn says. "In the meantime, I know that the schools are protecting children."

The so-called "bathroom bill" would have applied to K-12 and college students. Lynn says one question that still needs to be addressed is whether it should extend beyond K-12. 

Lynn denies that concerns about losing federal funding was a factor, although dozens of corporations have already come out against the bill.

Many executives have personally contacted Governor Bill Haslam and House representatives, telling them the legislation could jeopardize their business in Tennessee.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery has also warned that the bathroom bill could cost the state millions in federal funding. He pointed to North Carolina as an example, where a similar bill has recently caused an uproar.


But Rep. Lynn says judges in Virginia and Pennsylvania have dismissed suits from transgender students demanding access to the bathroom of their gender identity.

This decision follows last-minute lobbying from both sides of the debate. Monday morning a group of about 30 pastors gathered at legislative plaza in support of the transgender bathroom bill.

Led by David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, they hoped to embolden lawmakers who may support the bill but felt intimidated by potential financial fallout.

Fowler insisted that the bill was worth the risk. He emphasized the safety of public school students and shrugged off financial threats, saying Tennessee’s economy can survive a little opposition.

Meanwhile, representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, along with a few transgender students and their families, delivered petitions to Governor Haslam's office with more than 67,000 signatures. 

In a statement that accompanied the petitions, student Jennifer Guenst wrote this:


“I have been a public school student for two years and haven’t had any issues using the same restroom as other students – it’s this bill that would create a lot of problems for me and my friends."


It's unclear how much influence, if any, these actions had on Rep. Lynn's decision.