Editor’s Note: Last night The Tennessean reported, on Wednesday, March 23, the “Bathroom Bill” was given new life in the House and advanced in the Senate. Although the House Education Administration and Planning Committee voted against the bill on March 22, when the committee reconvened on Wednesday, Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, made a motion to force the committee to reconsider its action. Tennesseans can still call their legislators to express their views on this bill.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — A bill that would require students in public education institutions in Tennessee to use restroom and locker rooms that are assigned to their biological sex is currently circulating in the Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 2387 and House Bill 2414 are commonly referred to as the “Bathroom Bill.”
David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee and a former state senator, has been monitoring the progress of the bill.
“Legislation is now working its way through the legislative process that would prohibit our public educational institutions from having policies that would allow students to use the bathroom and locker room of their choice based on what sex the student chooses to identify with,” Fowler said.
“In other words, it would require our educational institutions to provide a bathroom and locker room that students can use without fear of being exposed in that kind of setting to someone of the opposite biological sex. The legislation would allow institutions to make other facilities available for transgendered students and those students for whom privacy is not an issue,” he continued.
A similar bill was passed earlier this year in South Dakota, but later was vetoed by the state’s governor.
Fowler fears that could happen in Tennessee as well.
“Gov. (Bill) Haslam has now publicly expressed reservations with the bill. His publicly stated reason is that he fears the current administration of the United States Department of Education will withhold funds under Title IX,” Fowler said.
He noted, however, that according to the Alliance Defense Fund, “in the 40 years since Title IX was enacted, no educational institution or state has ever lost its federal funding for noncompliance with Title IX.”
If it were to happen that the Department of Education threatens a school’s funding, that school is entitled to a hearing before an administrative law judge and review by a federal court. If a school fights and ultimately loses, the school is still given 30 days to comply and keep its Title IX funding, Fowler added.
Fowler said Gov. Haslam is being encouraged by the A.C.L.U. to follow the lead of the South Dakota governor and to veto the bill if it is passed by the Tennessee House and Senate. “We have every reason to believe that opponents of the bill will be making a national push to have the governor veto the bill,” Fowler said.
Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, sent out an e-mail letter to pastors across the state this week encouraging them to support the legislation and to encourage Gov. Haslam to do so.
“While this seems like a common sense bill that should be a ‘no-brainer,’ there is considerable opposition to it from those who advocate/favor a homosexual/transgender lifestyle,” Davis wrote.
He encouraged pastors and those in their congregation to “contact the governor’s office and encourage him to support this bill when it comes across his desk. He will be getting tremendous pressure nationally to take the approach of the South Dakota governor and to veto the legislation.
“We need to let Gov. Haslam know that we live in Tennessee and that we ‘have his back.’ Let him know he is not alone and that you and your congregations will be praying for him in a mighty way in the weeks and months ahead.
“The privacy of our children and teenagers across our state is at stake here. We must be proactive and make our opinions known to Gov. Haslam. We cannot be silent.”
Fowler agreed. “If we are to protect the privacy of our young people and foster what modesty remains in our society, I believe that it is imperative that our supporters know to call the governor as soon as the legislation passes to urge his support for it,” he said.
“The message is simple. “Please support the law that would protect the privacy of our young people in bathrooms and locker rooms.” The number to call is 615-741-2001.