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Even the Log Cabin Republicans are against Tennessee’s anti-trans bathroom bill

Maggie Baska May 11, 2021
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gender-neutral bathroom sign

The sign for the gender-neutral bathrooms in Boston City Hall on 15 May 2016. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The Log Cabin Republicans have come out in opposition of a Tennessee bill that would require businesses to post a notice that it allows trans people to use restrooms.

Earlier this month, Tennessee lawmakers voted to enact HB 1182/SB 1224, and the bill now sits on Republican governor Bill Lee’s desk to be vetoed or signed into law. The legislation would require that any “public or private entity or business that operates a building or facility open to the general public” and allows a “member of either biological sex to use any public restroom within the building or facility” to “post notice of the policy at the entrance of each public restroom in the building or facility”.

In a guest column for The Tennessean, Joshua Herr, a chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of Tennessee, wrote that the gay Republican group believed the bathroom bill is “misguided”. Herr said the group opposed the bill because it did not think that the “government should single out businesses for special public censure if they do not enforce the government’s current social views”.

The legislation would require any business to place a sign outside any restroom, locker room, shower facility, dressing area or any other facility or areas that are open to the general public. The sign must read that the business “maintains a policy of allowing the use” of the said facility by “either biological sex”, regardless of the designation on the facility.

Any business or entity that is not compliant with the bill would have 30 days in which to comply with the legislation before any action is taken against the organisation or individual.

But Herr argued that Americans are “still sorting out how they feel about trans people and how they can be tolerant or hospitable neighbors even if they disagree”. As such, he said the government should not use private businesses as “pawns in an ongoing culture war”, especially with “something as private as their customers’ genitalia”.

He said the bill “might be more defensible if it only applied to government restrooms”. Herr explained: “But by extending the mandate to privately-owned businesses, it tries to shame businesses who choose, out of respect for their customers’ privacy, to let trans customers use their restroom of choice.”

Herr added the Log Cabin Republicans of Tennessee also opposed the bill because it is “counterproductive”. He explained that allowing trans people to use the same restroom as young children can be “more disturbing and disruptive to businesses”. Herr said: “We understand that the legislature wants to give parents peace of mind that their daughters will not use the same restroom as biological males.

“Parents want to make sure their kids are safe — this is a completely reasonable concern. But forcing trans women to use the same restroom as young boys can be more disturbing and disruptive to businesses.”

Herr continued: “More disturbing still is when trans men who are far along in their transition — people who look, act, and identify as male — must use the same restroom as young girls.”

He added that the Log Cabin Republicans of Tennessee “respect this fear” presented by the bill’s advocates that letting trans women use the ladies’ room “creates opportunity for sexual predators to assault women or girls”. But he said the group did not think “this fear” will be “realised in practice” as there is “not a single recorded instance of a trans woman sexually assaulting a biological woman in a bathroom in Tennessee“.

Instead, he argued the “opposite is true”. He said: “There are many recorded instances of trans people being assaulted when they are recognised as trans.

“We want to protect all Tennesseans, including trans people. We do not think this bill helps to do that.”

The Log Cabin Republicans claim to represent “LGBT conservative and allies”, but the group rarely challenges rampant homophobia within its party. The group endorsed 12 politicians in the 2020 elections who have long track records of opposing LGBT+ rights.

The Log Cabin Republicans recently praised former president Donald Trump in a video for President’s Day. The video claimed that Trump was the “first Republican president in American history to enter office as a supporter of marriage equality”, and that he was the “first pro-gay president when entering office”.

But the accolades heaped on the former president are bizarre considering Trump also left behind one of the most hateful, anti-LGBT+ legacies in US history. The former president pushed for the courts to legalise discrimination against LGBT+ people, banned trans people from serving in the military and reversed trans healthcare protections.

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