A federal judge has struck down a Tennessee law that requires businesses to post a red and yellow “notice” on any public bathroom that allows transgender people to use a restroom that matches their gender. allows.
The law, the first of its kind, signed last spring by the state’s Republican governor, would require signs as part of the state’s building code. Businesses that refused or failed to display the signs could face criminal charges.
U.S. District Judge Aletta Truger, who issued an injunction against the law last summer, said in her ruling Tuesday that the signs would not only infringe on business owners’ First Amendment rights, they would need to “support the position that They don’t want to be supported,” but that they run the risk of sowing “fear and misunderstanding.”
“To judge the Act for anything other than what it is would be a disservice to the First Amendment: a brazen attempt to alienate trans-inclusive establishments and force them to parrot a message that they should justify themselves.” We believe that will create fear and misunderstanding from the very transgender Tennesseans to whom those establishments are trying to provide a safe and welcoming environment,” Truger said.
Advocates of the law had argued that the signs would help protect women and children from sexual predators who might use the same restrooms as them. The law requires the word “notice” to appear in yellow on a red background and stipulates that the sign must be at least eight inches wide and six inches long.
The law requires the sign to be read in all capital letters:
“This facility maintains a policy of allowing restroom use by any biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”
Troger, who signed on to the “Cartoonically Alarmist Color Scheme,” said there is no evidence to support the claim that these signs will prevent sexual assault.
“Although at least one major proponent of the Act in the General Assembly justified its requirements with respect to the alleged risks of sexual assault and rape, (1) there is no evidence in the legislative record or on record of the case, that there is no evidence for that purpose.” There is a significant problem of misusing trans-inclusive toilet policies by individuals in the U.S. and (2) there is no reason to think that, if such a problem exists, mandatory signs will address it,” she said.
State Representative Tim Rudd (R), who sponsored the bill, dismissed the judge’s decision as politically biased and reiterated the unfounded and transphobic claims that such prompts would deter sexual assault.
“For a property owner to have a policy of using a woman’s restroom without a woman knowing that she may be at risk of rape or sexual assault is not only dangerous, but the property owner is irresponsible and legally liable. Such a ‘secret policy’, his office said in a statement to HuffPost on Wednesday. “The simple sign in question prevents, does not forbid, access to the restroom or in any way precludes the expression of one’s freedom of expression.”
Rudd said he believed the decision would be overturned if appealed to the High Court.
Tennessee business owners filed suit against the law last year. Bob Bernstein, a Nashville restaurant owner who sued with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, celebrated Trugar’s decision in a statement Tuesday.
“As a former journalist, I believe strongly in free speech,” he said. “The government cannot compel people to post discriminatory, false and divisive signs at their places of business. I am glad that the court held that this law violates the First Amendment.
Henry Seaton, a transgender justice advocate at the ACLU in Tennessee, said the ACLU’s work of “trans justice” would continue.
“This indicated the law was simple cruelty – and cruelty is unjust,” he said in a statement. “We will continue our pursuit of trans justice to the fullest extent, and hope that the trans and non-binary community feels relieved and hoped by this decision.”