NASHVILLE, TN (AP) – A bill that would require transgender students to use bathrooms that match their sex at birth failed in Tennessee on Tuesday.
The bill died in a House committee meeting packed with transgender youth who opposed the measure, some of whom testified before the committee.
“It feels great to know that my voice is counting,” Henry Seaton, an 18-year-old student who attends Beech High School in Hendersonville, said after the vote. Seaton, who was born female but identifies as male, testified last week in a subcommittee and then spoke to committee chairman Mark White, R-Memphis, before Tuesday’s meeting.
Rick Womack, R-Rockvale, said he had decided to withdraw his support from the bill after hearing more about the issue.
Womack invited comments from Dr. John and Valerie Guenst and their daughter Jennifer, 17, who was born male but identifies as female and has been using the female restroom at Franklin High School. John Guenst said the bill would be harmful to transgender students, who already have a high rate of suicide. The family also raised questions about whether Jennifer, who looks very much like a girl, should be using a urinal in the boy’s room.
Religious conservatives had pushed the legislation, which was sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, and Mike Bell, R-Riceville. But there was concern that the proposal might create more confusion – local schools already have their own policies on transgender students’ bathroom use.
“Maybe we’re making things a little worse than they already are,” White said of the proposal after hearing the testimony. He also said the bill would surely die later because of the potential costs. A revised fiscal note on the bill said the federal government, which provided $1 billion in education funding for Tennessee last year, could withhold future money if the legislation passed. The potential loss of federal funding was behind Gov. Bill Haslam’s opposition to the proposal.
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