By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

public restroom signs male female gender bathroom toiletNASHVILLE — Tennessee state legislators will not act upon the so-called “bathroom bill” for the second consecutive year.

The bathroom bill (SB771) would prohibit public schools from having policies that would allow students to use the bathroom or locker room of their choice based on what sex the student chooses to be.

The state Senate Education Committee chose March 22 not to discuss the bathroom bill. None of the nine members were willing to make a motion to hear the bill. Last year seven of the nine members voted for the bill, according to David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee. “I believe tens of thousands of Tennesseans will see this as an insult to their values,” he said in a written statement following the action.

The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville reported March 22 that the lack of action came a month after Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said the legislation was no longer needed in light of the federal government’s recent actions. In February, the Department of Education and Department of Justice  each said they were withdrawing a guidance advanced last year by the Obama administration that permitted students to use the restrooms based on the sex they identified with, The Tennessean reported.

The need for the bill no longer exists in light of the action of the Trump administration to reverse the Obama administration’s decision, McNally told The Tennessean.

Fowler disagreed with the premise that Trump’s decision to rescind the Obama policies made the bill unnecessary.

“This is not true. President Obama tried to take away the authority of the states under Title IX to treat sex as a biological reality for the purposes of bathrooms, locker rooms, etc.,” Fowler wrote in a blog post March 23. But Trump’s decision also left it up to the states to abandon the idea that sex is biological for the amorphous concept of  ‘gender identity,’ ” he continued.

“The members of the Senate Education Committee essentially said they were okay with local schools choosing to allow students to choose bathrooms and locker rooms based on how they identified, regardless of their biological sex,” Fowler said.

Larry Robertson

Larry Robertson

The Senate committee’s action followed Tennessee representative Mark Pody’s decision March 7 to pull a similar house bill off notice from a state house subcommittee. Pody told The Tennessean at the time that the bill was not dead yet and that he planned to reintroduce it at a later session. “We just have to make sure our language is appropriate,” he told the paper. The Tennessean reported that Rep. Pody was uncertain what action he would take in view of the Senate’s action.

Tennessee pastor Larry Robertson (Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville) has observed the proposed legislation the past two years.

In addition to recent polls indicating a slight majority of Americans are against limiting transgender rights to bathrooms, Robertson noted that “states are seeing the political clout of the LGBT community and they are afraid of doing the right thing. What has happened in response to North Carolina’s stand on this issue, for instance, has been staggering” (the NCAA moved its East regional basketball games from North Carolina to Greenville, S.C. due to the state’s law that does not allow transgenders to use the bathroom of their choice).

Robertson said he is “not really afraid of what a mentally-ill person with the delusion of being the opposite gender might do in a restroom.  It’s the open door such ‘tolerance’ creates for sexual predators to self-identify their gender in order to demand access to areas that should have reasonable privacy. I think that’s most people’s concern,” he said.

The former Tennessee Baptist Convention president predicted that as new public facilities are constructed across Tennessee more single stall “unisex” restrooms will be built. “And I have no objection to that,” he said.