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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 8, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 15
Businesses warn Tennessee: Don't pass anti-Trans bills
Section One
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Businesses warn Tennessee: Don't pass anti-Trans bills

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Five of the country's top businesses warned Tennessee lawmakers not to pass HB 2414, a law that would force Transgender students in public schools to use restrooms that do not correspond to their gender identity.

On April 6, the Tennessee House Education Administration and Planning Committee voted 8-4 to advance the bill. A Senate companion bill, SB 2387, is also pending.

According to the Williams Institute, there are over 10,000 Transgender young people between 13 and 19 years of age in Tennessee who would be impacted by the legislation.

CEOs of Alcoa, Choice Hotels, Dow Chemical, and Hewlett Packard wrote to Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the president of the state Senate, warning that they were opposed to the bills being considered.

'We are disappointed to see the [Tennessee] legislature consider discriminatory legislation,' the letter says.

'The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development. We believe that SB 2387 will make it far more challenging for businesses across the state to recruit and retain the nation's best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the country. It will also diminish the state's draw as a destination for tourism, new businesses, and economic activity.'

Viacom, the parent company of Country Music Television, issued a separate statement also urging lawmakers to reject the legislation.

'Viacom and CMT have a deep commitment to tolerance, diversity, and inclusion, and discriminatory laws like HB 2414 and SB 2387 are inconsistent with our values,' the company said. 'As proud members of Tennessee's welcoming and vibrant business community, we implore state lawmakers to reject these proposals.'

HRC President Chad Griffin warned that passing the bills might lead to a nationwide boycott of Tennessee, similar to one developing against North Carolina in the wake of a sweeping anti-LGBT law in that state.

'Tennessee lawmakers must not be paying attention to North Carolina and the national backlash caused by a similar legislative attack on transgender people,' Griffin said.

'In addition to undermining Tennessee's economy, this vicious and appalling measure would needlessly jeopardize millions in federal funding for Tennessee's schools and universities in an attempt to force local administrators and teachers to discriminate against transgender students - young people who already face high rates of harassment, bullying, and discrimination. The Tennessee Senate must resoundingly reject this outrageous proposal.'

In addition to the possibility of a boycott, the measures would also put Tennessee school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. That law stipulates that schools receiving federal funding cannot discriminate on the basis of sex - a provision the Obama administration has interpreted to protect Transgender students.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam expressed concerns that the bills would threaten $3 billion in federal funding for his state's public schools and universities. His spokesperson also said the governor 'trusts our teachers and local school boards to make necessary accommodations' for transgender students.

According to HRC, seven major national child welfare, medical, and education groups have condemned legislation excluding Trans students from gender-appropriate facilities: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American School Counselor Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.

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