That puts transgender people in a quandary, since it's legally impossible for them to change their sex on their birth certificates in Tennessee. At Daily Kos, they're wondering what our legislators think they are accomplishing, a question we have asked ourselves a lot lately.
The purpose of the bill is entirely unclear unless they are just trying to erase people who are transgender and stigmatize them permanently as sexual predators who want to prey on unsuspecting victims in public accommodations. The bill seems to be trying to criminalize gender variance - not something that's unheard of. And it's obvious that there is no way to enforce this if it becomes law. They can't possibly employ bathroom police all across the state of Tennessee to make sure that someone going into a female bathroom possesses a birth certificate proving they have the requisite body parts for that bathroom and that they have had those same parts since birth.
Legislative leaders have claimed they will stick to important issues this session for a change and prove Republicans are serious adults capable of governing responsibly. So much for that.
Update: The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition is already out with a presser condemning this bill, which the group has dubbed the Bathroom Harassment Act. Here's the release:
Bathroom Harassment Act is a New Low for Tennessee
The Second Session of the 107th Tennessee General Assembly convened on Tuesday, and it did not take long for the members to set the bar lower than ever before in introducing bad legislation.
Just a little over 48 hours ago, the Bathroom Harassment Act (SB 2282/HB 2279) was filed by two Hamilton County Republicans, Senator Bo Watson of Hixson and Representative Richard Floyd of Chattanooga.
The Bathroom Harassment Act restricts access to public restrooms and public dressing rooms designated by sex to members of that particular sex. Using the person's birth certificate, a person would face a Class C Misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $50.
The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition feels that while this bill is a direct attack on the rights of Tennessee's transgender community, transgender people would not be the only people harassed under this bill should it become law. It would affect lots of other gender variant and gender non conforming people who do not necessarily identify as trans. Furthermore, it would criminalize plumbers and cleaning personnel who operate in restrooms the opposite of their birth gender.
The bill would also affect families who take their children with them into restrooms in shopping malls, restaurants, theaters, and sporting events. Are we now going to arrest the parents, or children, or both, for violating this new law?
Tennessee also has many people who visit the state to enjoy our many tourist sites, from Dollywood to Graceland, as well as to transfer at Tennessee airports in Memphis and Nashville. If any of them wish to use a restroom while they are in the state and they do not have their birth certificates with them to prove identity, are we now going to arrest them?
We are also curious to see how Senator Watson and Representative Floyd intend to set up this new Bathroom Identification bureacracy. Who will be responsible for checking everyone's birth certificates? If a person does not carry their birth certificate with them, will they be denied access to a facility? And how do they intend to pay for this new Big Government agency in the bathroom stalls? Do they propose raising taxes, or will they seek to cut the budgets of superflous agencies like Department of Education or Department of Health? Does this mean that doctors, nurses, and teachers are less important than Bathroom stall monitors?
There are also serious Constitutional questions surrounding this bill, since the Fourth Amendment protects persons "from unreasonable searches and seizures."
While there have been many attempts to scare people about transgender people using bathrooms, including a well circulated video previously used in anti-transgender campaigns in Florida and Michigan, the only documented incidents all show the transgender person as the victims, not the perpatrators of the abuse. The April 2011 beating of Chrissy Lee Polis at a Baltimore McDonald's led to charges of Hate Crimes in Maryland against the two women who beat Ms. Polis. In Tennessee, they would probably be hired as supervisors in the new Tennessee Bathroom Security Agency.
We feel this bill is the latest in a growing string of embarrassing bills in Tennessee.
We urge all of you to contact Senator Watson (615-741-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and Representative Floyd (615-741-2746 or email@example.com) and express your opposition to the Bathroom Harassment Act and ask them to withdraw it immediately.