Nashville business owner explains why he wants transgender bathroom bill to be ruled ‘unconstitutional’

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A business owner in Nashville is speaking out about a federal lawsuit he’s a part of against a law that would mandate bathroom signs about transgender use in Tennessee.

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.

Those named in the lawsuit: Carter Lawrence, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal and Christopher Bainbridge, the director of Codes Enforcement, as well as the District Attorney Generals representing Davidson and Hamilton counties, Glenn Funk and Neal Pinkston.

The law would require businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they let transgender people use multi-person bathrooms, locker rooms, or changing rooms. Bernstein said the whole concept of the requirement upset him.

“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,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein believes the law is unreasonable and not inclusive.

“The first line of my business plan back in 1993 was I want to create a gathering place for all of Nashville. 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,” explained Bernstein.

Bernstein said he’s received some support from the community about the lawsuit.

“It’s been amazing to hear friends, really across the country, who have seen this article about this court case and found out my name was attached to it. They reach out saying thank you or brave you. This is nothing compared to what people have to go through every day. I am happy to do it, proud to do it. I hope people understand that this is more than a sign on a bathroom,” explained Bernstein.

He wants this lawsuit to spark change.

“I’m hoping this bill is ruled unconstitutional and we can move on with our lives. I can’t even imagine what the people feel who are affected by the bill,” said Bernstein.

Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk is one of the four defendants listed in the lawsuit. Funk previously released the following statement on May 24 in regards to 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.”

Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk

News 2 reached out to Governor Bill Lee’s office for a response to the lawsuit but has yet to hear back. The law goes into effect on July 1st.

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