Business owners face jail for refusing to post signs about trans people in bathrooms

·2-min read

Business owners in Tennessee could face several months in jail or a fine if their establishment doesn’t post signs letting patrons know trans people use their bathrooms.

Reviled anti-trans bill HB 1182 was signed into law by Republican governor Bill Lee on 17 May, and the law went into effect on Tuesday (1 June). It requires any public or private business or entity that “operates a building or facility open to the general public” to “post notice” that it allows a “member of either biological sex to use any public restroom”.

This notice must be posted at the “entrance of each public restroom in the building or facility”. The sign must read that the facility “maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom”.

Republican representative Tim Rudd, who sponsored the bill, previously said the law “does not provide any fines or penalties at this point”. However, Rudd told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in May that violators could face misdemeanour crimes punishable by fines and even jail time.

Businesses and entities will have 30 days to post the correct sign. If they do not post the sign, then the business could be subject to up to six months in jail and fines of up to $500.

The Associated Press reported this would classify violations under the bathroom bill as a class B misdemeanour in Tennessee – similar to non-compliance with smoke alarm requirements and air conditioning.

Rudd told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the law doesn’t target trans people because it “in no way bans them from using the restroom” if the sign states “either sex” can use a restroom.

Nashville district attorney general Glenn Funk said in May that his office would not enforce the legislation. He said in a statement to News4 Nashville that he believes “every person is welcome and valued in Nashville”.

“Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values,” Funk said. “My office will not promote hate.”

The AP reported that Amy Weirich, president of Tennessee‘s District Attorneys General Conference, had previously said the group was neutral on the bill because it “doesn’t speak to anything having to do with enforcement”.

In a follow-up on 26 May, Weirich told the AP that the group will “continue to look into the nuances of this public chapter” but said the law’s required placement of the sign would mean it would be handled by “fire marshals and building inspectors”.