Tennessee Lawmaker Kills Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill, Leaving North Carolina All Alone

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam had implied that he might veto the bill, which has now been withdrawn.

Mike Theiler/Files/Reuters

On Monday, Tennessee Republican Rep. Susan Lynn announced that she will pull her anti-trans bathroom bill, at least until next year. Lynn’s bill would have required all public schools, including universities, to force students to use the bathroom for the sex they were assigned at birth. Because Tennessee explicitly forbids trans people from changing their birth certificates to align with their gender identity, the bathroom bill would have effectively barred them from using most public school facilities.

In a defensive press conference, Lynn insisted that she was not responding to the widespread outrage her bill had provoked among major corporations and businesses, as well as from trans students and LGBTQ advocates. Instead, she seemed concerned by the attorney general’s (correct) assertion that the measure would cost the state $1.2 billion in federal education funding, since federal law prohibits public schools from engaging in gender identity discrimination. Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, had also implied that he might veto the bill, noting that he wasn’t “hearing about problems” relating to trans bathroom use. Lynn warned that she might revive the bill in the next legislative session, telling reporters that while “there’s definitely some issues that we need to work out … this little bit of additional time will allow us to work out those issues and allow us to come back with a stronger bill.”

Lynn’s decision leaves North Carolina as the only state to pass a bathroom bill thus far. (Mississippi allows schools to bar trans bathroom access but does not require it.) The South Dakota legislature passed a measure similar to Tennessee’s, but the Republican governor vetoed it after meeting with actual trans students. Shortly after a South Carolina lawmaker proposed a bathroom bill, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley declared it unnecessary; the measure is now almost certain to die in committee. That leaves Gov. Pat McCrory as the only executive to sign such a bill into law for the foreseeable future.

The coast is not yet fully clear for Tennessee’s LGBTQ community, however. In April, the legislature passed a bill that would allow therapists and mental health counselors to reject LGBTQ patients if treating them would violate their “sincerely held principles.” Haslam has not announced whether he will sign the measure into law.