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Nashville Business Owner Sues over Transgender Bathroom Signs


A Nashville business owner and Chattanooga business owner have filed a federal lawsuit against Tennessee state officials over a new law requiring signage on transgender bathrooms that is scheduled to take effect on July 1.

“Bob Bernstein, owner of Bongo Java and Fido in Nashville, and Kye Sayers, who operates Sanctuary Performing Arts and Community Café in Chattanooga, have filed a lawsuit against multiple state and local officials,” WKRN reported.

Star News Education Foundation Journalism ProjectThe law requires that businesses who allow both biological sexes to use the same bathroom post the following signage:

“Notice: This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”

The Nashville District Attorney has already refused to enforce the law.

“I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville. Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values.  My office will not promote hate,” DA Glenn Funk said when the law passed.

But that did not prevent swift backlash from the community.

“When the bill first passed, I got angry and wondered what to do and how to make a statement. We thought about writing something on our bathroom walls,” Bernstein reportedly said.

Bernstein railed against the law.

“The first line of my business plan back in 1993 was I want to create a gathering place for all of Nashville,” he said. “It’s things like this that are putting things in my way I shouldn’t have to deal with. I moved here in 1988 to be a newspaper reporter and part of that is freedom of speech issues that I’ve always believed in. I’ve always been on the side of social justice. It’s a clear violation of what I learned in journalism school.”

He said he has received messages of support from friends nationwide, and that he “hope[s] people understand that this is more than a sign on a bathroom,”

Separately, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee sued the state.

“Forcing businesses to display a stigmatizing message for political expedience is unconstitutional,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director in a press release. “Furthermore, by targeting the transgender community, these government-mandated signs marginalize and endanger transgender individuals. Tennessee should be embracing and protecting all Tennesseans, not passing unconstitutional discriminatory laws.”

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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to
Photo “Gender Neutral Bathroom Sign” by Ted Eytan. CC BY-SA 2.0.