Tenn. Green-Lights Discrimination
BY Neal Broverman
May 23 2011 10:20 PM ET
Inspired by antigay animus, Tennessee has passed a bill that abolishes antidiscrimination ordinances passed by cities and counties, effectively leaving LGBT people susceptible to bias in everything from housing to employment.
Republican governor Bill Haslam signed the bill into law Monday, after it was passed by the legislature earlier in the month. The legislation came in response to Nashville's recent ordinance requiring city contractors to avoid discrimination against LGBT people in their business dealings. The new bill reverses city- and county-enacted discrimination bans and prevents them from being passed in the future. While Tennessee protects certain minorities from discrimination, gays, lesbians, and transgender people are not included in that list of protected groups.
The legislation sailed through the Republican-controlled legislature but there was hope that Haslam would veto it after the urging of several corporations, including AT&T and FedEx. The state Chamber of Commerce initially supported the bill when it was debated in the legislature, but after corporate America balked, it changed its position. The chamber released the following statement, according to The Tennessean: "The Tennessee Chamber supports a standard regulatory environment at the state level as opposed to potentially conflicting local regulations covering employment practices. That principle was the only interest the Chamber had in this bill. Because [the bill] has turned into a debate on diversity and inclusiveness principles, which we support, we are now officially opposing this legislation in its present form."
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese released the following statement: “Discrimination should have no place in the Volunteer State and the Chamber’s opposition to this law sent a strong signal that corporations are on the leading edge of positive change. In contrast Governor Haslam has put discrimination ahead of the state’s values and even business interests by signing this horrible legislation.”
Tennessee's senate passed a bill last week that would ban school lessons that have anything to do with LGBT people.