NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that protects school teachers who don’t use a student’s preferred pronouns.

The Republican governor signed legislation Wednesday that prevents public school teachers from facing civil lawsuits or adverse employment action for not referring to a student by their preferred pronouns if they don’t correspond to the student’s assigned sex at birth.

It also protects school districts from being sued.

“The use of pronouns by teachers and employees of public schools and LEAs in an educational setting is a matter of free speech or expression,” the legislation states. “A teacher or employee of a public school or LEA should never be compelled to affirm a belief with which the teacher or employee disagrees.”

The bill does not prevent a teacher from using a student’s preferred pronouns if they choose.

The legislation sailed through the Republican-controlled General Assembly, passing the House 72–22 and the Senate 25–7.

Last November, the Sullivan County Commission approved a resolution supporting the legislation.