A Tennessee House subcommittee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would nullify a Nashville-Davidson County metropolitan government measure, passed only the day before, mandating that companies wanting to do business with the city must not discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. The Tennessee state bill would make it illegal for local governments to prohibit discrimination by businesses based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which are not protected classes under state law.
It is thought that a campaign mounted by local anti-LGBT groups may have had a hand in convincing legislators to advance the bill.
From The City Paper:
Without debate, the House Commerce Subcommittee voted for legislation Wednesday to bar all Tennessee cities from enacting their own policies against gay, lesbian and/or transgender discrimination. The action was taken by voice vote, with no lawmaker offering audible opposition.
That flips the position the same subcommittee took a month ago when it went against another bill in a 7-6 procedural vote. That bill was broader. It would have stopped cities not only from banning gay discrimination, but also from enacting their own policies on minimum wages, health care and family leave.
Since then, the Christian conservative Family Action Council of Tennessee has put heavy pressure on lawmakers who voted no, targeting Rep. Steve McManus, R-Shelby County, in a video. McManus missed Wednesday’s meeting.
The video, which was sent to conservative Christians in McManus’ district, seems to suggest that city ordinances against [LGBT] discrimination would open women’s restrooms to child molesters. In the video, a little girl goes into a women’s restroom at a public park followed by a sinister looking man.
“Will this be the future for Shelby County?” the ads asks. “Do gender differences matter to you? They won’t if Memphis or Shelby County mandates ‘gender expression’ policies on private employers. Is that the kind of Tennessee you want?”
The aforementioned video ran in campaigns against trans-inclusive ordinances in other states.
The Nashville council ordinance was approved by a 21-15 vote on Tuesday and was hailed as a landmark moment, according to The Tennessean.
Mayor Karl Dean has said he would sign the ordinance into law if passed, yet the Tennessee Legislature’s push to make the ordinance illegal would seem to dampen celebration.
Nike Inc.’s U.S. director of governance and public affairs, Orson C. Porter, sent a letter to show his support for the proposed anti-discrimination ordinance. Nike employs an estimated 2,000 Tennesseans. Read more on that here. Porter has not yet responded to the Legislature’s move to rescind the protections.
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