Photo: Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk
Photo Credit: da.nashville.gov & public domain
Published June 10, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
Despite increased pressure from lawmakers, Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk continues to refuse to enforce Tennessee’s new law that requires businesses to post transgender-friendly bathroom signs.
Governor Bill Lee signed the bill in May requiring all businesses and government facilities to post signs if they allow transgender individuals to use public restrooms, locker rooms, or changing rooms that are labeled with their gender identity.
A week after the bill was signed into law, Funk released a statement saying that his office would “not promote hate”
Funk has been asked repeatedly by Representative John Ragan of Oak Ridge to clarify his position. Ragan is the chair of the House Government Operations Committee.
Last month, Ragan said Funk’s refusal to comply is “more than marginally offensive to the concept of constitutionally ordered government.”
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In a second letter to Funk on Monday, Ragan asked again for an explanation of his stance on the issue.
Ragan also stated that a “continued failure to respond may force me, as the chair of a standing committee, to convene such and call you before it to address this issue.”
Funk finally responded with a letter on Wednesday.
“My office is devoted to public safety, prosecuting violent crimes and supporting victims. However, this law does not accomplish those goals,” Funk wrote. “Instead, it only dehumanizes transgender people and falsely portrays them as predators. History is blemished by far too many examples of the government openly discriminating against LGBTQ individuals.”
Ragan did acknowledge that district attorneys do have the authority to exercise some prosecutorial discretion when it comes to criminal cases.
“Nonetheless, such discretion is not totally without limits,” Ragan wrote. “Regrettably, a blanket statement such as the press attributed to you appears to constitute a transgression of such limits.”
Ragan continued, “To wit, consider that courts have opined other branches of government are not empowered to substitute their own policy judgments for those of the General Assembly or to adopt a construction that is clearly contrary to the intent of the General Assembly.”
Funk, however, disagreed with Ragan’s interpretation.
“Each branch of government is given the power to ‘check’ the power of the other two branches and act as a ‘balance’ to prevent any one branch from having too much power over the people or another governmental branch,” Funk wrote.
Funk noted that, according to the Tennessee Constitution, district attorneys would be considered a part of the judicial branch.
The new law goes into effect on July, making it a class B misdemeanor to be found in violation of it. However, despite the bill’s sponsor, Representative Tim Rudd of Murfreesboro, stating that there would be criminal penalties, no penalties or fines were included in the bill.
Funk says that legislators made a mistake by not contacting the District Attorneys Conference before passing the law.
“The Legislature…certain should have if this law was meant to contain criminal sanctions,” he wrote.
Lt. Governor Randy McNally has previously stated that he did not foresee the law resulting in any criminal penalties.
“I think it’s like the signs about washing your hands if you come out of the bathroom. I don’t think it will be enforced,” McNally said at a bill-signing event on June 2.