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VOL. 41 | NO. 11 | Friday, March 17, 2017

Beavers' bathroom bill down the drain

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Legislation restricting restroom use at public schools for transgender students got flushed Wednesday.

The Senate Education Committee declined to hear the measure sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers when it failed to receive the required motion and support to be considered.

Beavers declined to comment as she left the Senate meeting room, saying she had been suffering from fever and chills the previous night.

The Mt. Juliet Republican and House sponsor Rep. Mark Pody, a Lebanon Republican, planned to introduce an amendment allowing “accommodations” for transgender students. But it still did not draw enough support to allow Beavers to present the measure. The committee did not mention her illness before opting not to hear her.

The Senate’s inaction appears to have halted the measure.

Pody said afterward, “At this point, unless I have a Senate companion, I can’t do anything.”

A proposed amendment to the bill would require school systems to restrict use of restrooms and locker rooms for girls and boys based on their sex at birth. But it also would allow a school system or director of schools to allow schools to “make appropriate accommodations with respect to the use of the restroom and locker room facilities, including those with showers.”

Included in those exceptions would be students using a public school restroom or locker room designated for the opposite sex before July 1, 2017.

It also would grant an exception for those who provide the school with a physician’s statement that the person was born having 46,XX chromosomes with virilization, 46,XY chromosomes with undervirilization, or both ovarian and testicular issue, or that the physician has determined through genetic testing that the person doesn’t have the normal chromosome structure of a male or female.

The Tennessee Equality Network, an advocacy group for the LGBT community, was happy with Wednesday’s development but wasn’t ready to say the bill is dead.

“You never say that until the final two gavels of the session, but we’re in a very good posture, and we’re pleased. But we have several others bills in the slate of hate to watch, but this is a good day,” said Chris Sanders, spokesman for the organization.

Pody could not be reached immediately for comment. He said Tuesday he isn’t trying to make exceptions for transgender students, despite the bill’s wording dealing with chromosomes and sex glands.

Pody said Tuesday he wasn’t specifying exceptions for transgender students, despite the bill’s wording dealing with chromosomes and sex glands.

“I’m not trying to pull out any one group, good or bad. I’m just saying if anybody feels they need some kind of special accommodations, we want to be accommodating for them,” Pody said.

Pody said he didn’t amend it because of protests, including one in which he and Beavers walked out of a press conference after they were shouted down by members of the LGBTQ community.

“This is the just language that I thought that we needed to get through the committee. I don’t know if any protesters have seen it or not,” he said.

Despite those proposed changes, ACLU-Tennessee LGBTQ organizer Henry Seaton saw it as continuing to target transgender students.

“I think it’s just like a new way of saying the same thing. It still is blatant. It’s a blatant attempt at discriminating against a very vulnerable population of people,” Seaton said. “No matter how he words it, it’s going to be seen that way. And I have faith that the truth will be shown in these committees.”

Sam Stockard can be reached at sstockard44@gmail.com.

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