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"Bathroom bill" to take effect with LGBTQ community cautiously monitoring

Posted at 1:29 PM, Jun 28, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new law in Tennessee that will take effect next week clarifies what constitutes a public place in regards to existing public indecency laws.

However, LGBTQ groups like the Tennessee Equality Project plan to keep a close eye on how the changes will mean for their community.

Governor Bill Lee signed HB 1151 which defines a public place as it relates to indecent exposure "as a place which the public or a group of persons has access and includes, but is not limited to, highways, transportation facilities, schools, places of amusement, parks, places of business, playgrounds, hallways, lobbies, restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, or showers, designated for multiperson, single sex use."

The version is watered down compared to what was originally proposed. The bill initially included that it would apply if "the person is a member of the opposite sex than the sex designated for use" and that "medical, psychiatric, or psychological diagnosis of gender dysphoria, gender confusion, or similar conditions, in the absence of untreated mental conditions, such as schizophrenia, will not serve as a defense to the offense of indecent exposure."

TEP Executive Director Chris Sanders is delighted the final draft of the bill excluded the language he said would have unfairly targeted the transgender community.

House Majority Leader William Lamberth said on the floor that the bill, for purposes of our criminal law, bans acts of sexual intercourse in a public bathroom.

"Now, if you're not against that, what in the world are you doing down here?" he said.

"It's really interesting that the intent changed and we get a confession from a House staffer of what he's been doing," Sanders replied.

Sanders was referring to Cade Cothren, the top aide to outgoing Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada, who sent text messages to his boss saying he had sex with a woman in a restaurant bathroom.

For now, Sanders said the new law may not change much in reality but plans to be a watchdog. There are still concerns that the bill could be misused.

"There is a long history of policing trans people in bathrooms. We are always watchful and looking forward to speaking ot new members of the Tennessee House," Sanders said.

If caught under the law, the person will face a Class B misdemeanor.