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Business owners say new transgender bathroom law does more harm than good

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Posted at 8:40 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 21:40:05-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — A new state law set to go into effect in less than two months will require public businesses and government facilities to post signs telling the public that the business lets transgender people use the bathrooms of their choice.

If not, people could go to jail.

Shannon Wood and Peter Kurland are the owners of Darkhorse Theater in Nashville. A place they say where everyone is welcomed regardless of their backgrounds.

"We’ve been here for 30 years and we have a tradition of not discriminating," said Wood.

They say they were upset to hear Governor Bill Lee signed a bill into law this month requiring businesses open to the public to post signs if they let transgender people use the bathrooms of their choice.

Owners and officials who refuse could face up to six months in jail — a penalty that went unmentioned during legislative hearings and debates.

Rep. Tim Rudd said this week that the misdemeanor penalty could apply. That seems to contradict what he told fellow lawmakers in March when he said his bill “does not provide any fines or penalties at this point" when a committee passed what would become the final version.

"It is a ridiculous, mean-spirited and hateful law," Wood said. "To put someone in jail because they don’t post a mean-spirited sign on their building."

Rudd says he was telling the truth because the penalties weren't in the bill itself, but rather the existing building codes law.

Earlier this week, Nashville DA Glenn Funk said that his office will not enforce “transphobic or homophobic laws.”

However, the owners of Darkhorse Theater say this law is bad for business.

"We’ve been closed for a year because of the pandemic and we really can’t afford to drive away any patrons, and it makes me a little nervous that our patrons won’t know what to expect when they get here," said Kurland.

Kurland says as a business owner he hasn't heard anything so far from the state on the requirements.

"I’m not a doctor, I don’t have the capacity to examine every one of our patrons and determine which bathroom they’re supposed to go to," Kurland said, "I can’t enforce the use of bathrooms even if we wanted to which we don’t, so it leaves us all in this very weird position."

The owners say in the end, the law will not just hurt businesses and people but the state as a whole.

The law is the first of its kind to be enacted in the United States. However, questions remain on how it will be enforced throughout the state.