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Lawsuit Filed Against Tenn. Antigay Law

Lawsuit Filed Against Tenn. Antigay Law

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Tennessee's recently enacted HB600, which made it virtually impossible for LGBT citizens to be protected from firing or eviction, will likely face a judge or jury.

Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld, the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights Monday filed suit against the law, which came in response to Nashville enacting workplace protections for LGBT people employed by city contractors. The new law rescinded those protections, but went further by making it so that no Tennessee city or county could establish protections for groups not covered by state protections -- that includes not only LGBT people, but veterans and those with disabilities.

Additional plaintiffs in the suit against HB600 include Lisa Howe, the Belmont University soccer coach pressured to leave her job after she announced that she was having a child with her partner -- Howe's termination served as impetus for the Nashville antidiscrimination ordinance, which itself served as motivation for HB600. Another plaintiff is Shirit Pankowsky, a senior at Martin Luther King Magnet High School and founder and president of MLK's gay-straight alliance. HB600 also stripped protections for gay people from Nashville public schools -- the law makes it impossible for new antibullying protections to be enacted.

"This law is contrary to core Tennessee values," Rubenfeld said in a statement. "Tennessee is the volunteer state -- we help each other, we don't single out certain Tennesseans who are deemed unworthy of help. Our legislators abused their power by preventing localities from assisting their own citizens. Rather than considering what is best for our state, they passed a law based on disapproval of gay and transgender people, which the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions do not permit."

The plaintiffs are indicating they will argue that HB600 goes counter to the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans, which struck down a similar antigay initiative in Colorado.

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Neal Broverman

Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.
Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.