The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit over a new Tennessee law that stipulates that any business that allows trans people to use the restroom of their choice must state so on a sign.
The sign reads: “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation of the restroom.” Business owners who do not display the sign face being fined, and possibly a prison sentence.
The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of two Tennessee business owners who object to what they say is the sign’s stigmatizing message. They claim the law, H.B. 1182/S.B. 1224, violates the First Amendment.
Plaintiff Kye Sayers, of Sanctuary Performing Arts in Chattanooga, said in a statement, “Sanctuary was founded specifically to create a safe space for transgender and intersex people and their families in a state that can be unwelcoming to LGBTQ people. I am against posting offensive signs that stigmatize and deny the existence of transgender and intersex people at our center. These signs undermine Sanctuary’s very mission and send the exact opposite of the welcoming message we try to convey in everything we do.”
“As a former journalist, I believe strongly in free speech. Politicians have no right to force me to post a controversial, ideologically-motivated and inaccurate sign in my place of business,” second plaintiff Bob Bernstein, who owns several restaurants and coffee shops, said in another statement. “I have worked hard to create a welcoming environment for all in the restaurants that I own, and I don’t intend to stop now.”
“Forcing businesses to display a stigmatizing message for political expedience is unconstitutional,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director. “Furthermore, by targeting the transgender community, these government-mandated signs marginalize and endanger transgender individuals. Tennessee should be embracing and protecting all Tennesseans, not passing unconstitutional discriminatory laws.”