In response to a Nashville-Davidson County metropolitan government ordinance mandating that companies wanting to do business with the city must not discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, the Tennessee Legislature last week passed a bill that nullified the ordinance by making it illegal for local jurisdictions to exceed state law — state law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity protections.
The Senate passed the bill 19-8, while the House, which had already approved the bill once, voted 70-26 last week to approve an amendment to change the language but not the substance of the bill. The senate amendment added a severability clause designed to shore up the bill under a court challenge.
The reconciled SB 632/HB 600 now heads to the desk of Republican governor Bill Haslam.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), together with a broad range of businesses, condemned the Legislature’s approval of the bill.
From the HRC website:
“This bill is not only discriminatory in nature, but also goes against the old Republican value that what’s good for business is good for the country,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “The fair-minded people of the Volunteer state are above anti-LGBT discrimination and so are the major businesses that call Tennessee home. We are happy to have these corporations join us in the call for fairness.”
Tennessee-based major corporations have made the following public statements in opposition to SB 632/HB 600:
“Alcoa provides equal employment opportunity without discrimination and supports state and local legislation protecting the rights of all community members. We do not agree with the chamber on this issue and would ask that the governor veto the bill.”
“FedEx values and promotes the unique contributions, perspectives, and differences of our team members worldwide. FedEx does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and is committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. FedEx did not lobby for SB632/HB600 — it is our policy not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While FedEx is a member of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, we do not support every position proposed by the Chamber.”
“AT&T does not support any laws or efforts that are discriminatory. AT&T does support the principals of ensuring that state and local laws are consistent, which is the stated purpose of HB 600/SB 632. However, the bill has become implicated in efforts to erode the rights of the gay community, which we do not support. AT&T has a long history and longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and its policies address diversity in areas including race, creed, religion, sex, and particularly sexual orientation. In fact, Diversity Inc. has ranked AT&T in its Top 10 Companies for LGBT employees, and we were honored to be recognized as one of the ’2010 Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality’ by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. We are proud of our commitment to this community.
The state senate also passed a bill Friday that would make it illegal for teachers to mention homosexuality in K through 8 schools. The bill, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has been criticized for the chilling effect it could have on combating anti-LGBT bullying. Read more on that here.