Bill Haslam: 'Gay rights is a broad topic'

Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 10:05pm
Jude Ferrara (SouthComm) 

With his first legislative session behind him, Gov. Bill Haslam has been sitting down with the state’s political reporters over lunch to talk about whatever’s on their minds. The City Paper took the time to discuss two Nashville issues — the legislature’s overturning of the city’s anti-gay bias ordinance and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

On neither issue was Haslam the driving force. Conservative Christians were. But the governor acquiesced and eventually played a key role in both matters. 

Haslam signed the state law invalidating Nashville’s ordinance, which would have required companies doing business with the city to adopt nondiscrimination policies. The governor acted even though the state’s major corporations and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry came out against the state law.

And Haslam pressured health departments in Nashville and Memphis to deny more than $1 million in federal money to Planned Parenthood after the legislature failed to do so in a confusing set of circumstances. (One state budget amendment defunded the nonprofit while another negated the first measure.)

That money goes for health exams, cancer screenings and family planning for low-income women — not for abortions, which are illegal to perform with federal funds. With Planned Parenthood out of the picture, the health departments now will try to perform those services themselves. 

Here are excerpts of The City Paper interview with Haslam: 

The City Paper: One of your top aides says you agonized over whether to sign the ban on gay nondiscrimination laws. Did you?

Haslam: What he said was that, of the things we had to decide, it was the hardest. That’s fair.

Did you think about vetoing it?

Yes, we thought about a lot of things there, mainly because there are conflicting principles. I really do think local governments should be able to decide most things for themselves. I really do think that. And it bugged me as a mayor [in Knoxville] when [state legislators in] Nashville told us stuff to do. The flip side is, I honestly believe that businesses have plenty of regulation coming down on them from government. If you asked most Tennesseans, including most people in this restaurant, they’d say there are plenty of regulations. So you had two pretty conflicting philosophies wrapped up in one thing. In the end, it passed by 70 percent in both houses, so I signed it.

What about gay rights? You have said you think businesses should adopt nondiscrimination policies that include gay people.

I think this. I’ve said a hundred times, I think the people who hire the best team are going to win. If you take any part of the population and say I’m not going to hire those people willfully, I don’t think that’s a really smart business plan. I think businesses should have diverse hiring practices. That’s really different, though, than having city governments tell businesses what their HR practices should be. Businesses are going to go out and hire the best people they can.

But what about the issue of gay rights?

During the campaign, I was real clear. I’m not in favor of gay marriage. Gay rights is a broad topic. How are you going to define it? I ran making myself clear about one key piece of what some people would define as gay rights.

OK, you’re against gay marriage. Would you be against the legislature passing
an anti-discrimination law that protects gay people?

What you’re asking is, why wouldn’t I add gays as a protected class? I just feel like there’s enough regulation coming down.

So you would be against adding gay people to that state law?

Probably would. That issue hasn’t come to me. But sitting here today, I probably would be.

When you say you favor businesses adopting nondiscrimination policies, that’s because you think it’s smart business? To you, it’s not a matter of conscience that people shouldn’t discriminate against gay people just because they happen to be gay?

Again, it depends. How are you defining discrimination? You could say I’m discriminating already because I’m saying I’m not for gay marriage. Is that discriminating?


Is it? OK, then I’m drawing a line there. But I’m not going to draw a line when it comes to hiring practices that I’m involved in.

Why do you take these positions? Do you think the gay lifestyle is a choice?

Oh, I’m not going to go into all that discussion.

Why not?

In my role as governor, I just don’t think that’s a topic that we need to get into. I’ve told you what we decided to do on a key issue, and I’ve told you what my own hiring practices are.

Does it ever occur to you that some people might think now that in 40 years, you might look like a segregationist looks to us now? Are you on the wrong side of history here?

There are certain things that you believe regardless of where societal thought goes.

Do you have some religious objection to advancement of rights for gay people?

Again, it depends on what you mean by advancement of rights. I’ve already said I’m not in favor of gay marriage.

As far as the business regulation argument against the Metro ordinance, the businesses said they were for the ordinance, right?

They did literally after I signed it. They were for it before they were against it.

If they switched positions earlier would it have made a difference? 

No, probably not.

Let’s get real here. Business regulation, that’s not what this is about.

You’re trying to make the point that I have some deep, inbred hostility toward gays. If that’s where you’re going, the answer is no.

This is not a business issue. It’s a conservative Christian issue.

I disagree. It is a business issue in the sense that businesses keep having regulations put on them. Let’s say I’m a Muslim subcontractor who wants to work on the convention center, and I feel very strong that regulation shouldn’t be placed on me. Is that a Christian conservative issue?

The Family Action Council was the main impetus behind that bill. In fact, they were the only ones behind the bill.

I can’t go back to what Glen Casada was thinking. I can’t go there. But that wasn’t the hand I was dealt.

Let me ask you generally about social conservative issues. A trend is developing. You are saying one thing and doing another. You do what the social conservatives want you to do, but you say things that will please everyone else.

Like what?

On this gay issue, you said, ‘I’m for businesses adopting nondiscrimination polices.’ But you signed the bill.

I don’t think that’s saying one thing and doing another. If I’m running a business, I’m going to go out and hire the best people I can, period. On the other hand, I don’t know that I necessarily want
the local city council telling me my HR practices. I don’t think that’s saying one thing and doing another at all.

Another example is this Planned Parenthood issue. I don’t know who you’ve been talking to but everyone agrees that the health departments in Nashville and Memphis [the two places in Tennessee where Planned Parenthood spends federal family-planning funds] can’t provide these same services to as many women. You say your main priority is providing these services to these women, but you are pressuring these health departments to defund Planned Parenthood.

Why do we have 93 out of 95 health departments doing it [providing these  services themselves]? They can. They just have to ramp up and do it. I don’t know why they can’t do it, but Planned Parenthood can.

There’s a funding gap. Planned Parenthood is using their donations to make it up. Health departments can’t do that.

Knox County does it. Hamilton County does it.

Why do you care whether Planned Parenthood gets that money or not?

Here’s what happened. The legislature clearly intended for that money to go to Planned Parenthood. They could have gone through this whole thing and come back next year and it becomes a topic again. Or we find a solution that works. The dollars go to the same place they go in every other county and the problem is solved.



Filed under: City News

38 Comments on this post:

By: Donna Locke on 7/11/11 at 1:57

What soulless arrogance. Yeah, someday Haslam will be regarded like the segregationists. Already is in some circles. Anyway, apparently the sky's the limit when it comes to the Tennessee legislature and governor dictating to local governments what they can do. If land developers and other business interests want to run wild with no regulation and no accountability, destroying our natural resources and quality of life and running up the bills for local taxpayers (many of whom these $$$ kings personally insult), well, I guess we have the governmental captivity most of us deserve.

"In a world of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

By: TonyGottlieb on 7/11/11 at 3:22

That is hyperbole Donna. There are tremendous public policy implications created by gay marriage. To accuse Haslam, who admits he is struggling with those policy issues, of bigotry is exactly why LGBT issues fail with conservatives.

A+ to Haslam.

Woods is lucky he doesn't live in New Jersey where the Governor there would have kicked his butt out after Question #2.

By: budlight on 7/11/11 at 5:53

The reporter is just digging and digging and digging. He can't accept the fact that the majority of the world is not for gay marriage. And people should be able to hire whomever they choose. After all, the employer (company) is taking all the risk and the employee bears none of it. If the employee wants gays to be hired, go out, set up a company, invest your entire life savings, jump through the red tape and hoops and then hire an entire staff of gays. No one is stopping you from doing just that. But stop forcing your views down the throats of others.

It's amazing to me that the gay community just pitches little fits instead of creating their own "totally gay" companies. OH, that would be discrimination, wouldn't it?

By: Kosh III on 7/11/11 at 6:02

"And people should be able to hire whomever they choose."

And fire. So if I don't want those cannibal Catholics in my company, I should be free to fire them solely on religous objects. I don't want women either. They are always taking off time because their baby is sick or they're pms-ing. Who needs it. Business profit is all that counts!

As to regulation, funny how he didn't lift a finger to remove any other regulations.

Stop forcing YOUR chosen religous opinion upon other people who don't conform to your particular cult.

By: Ingleweird on 7/11/11 at 6:05

If anybody has a family member who dies of preventable cervical cancer, be sure to ship the coffin to:

Governor Bill Haslam
600 Charlotte Avenue
Nashville, TN 37243-9034

You can just leave it on the doorstep.

By: Luckyforward on 7/11/11 at 6:11

Like it or not, Haslam is smooth. Does a great job of saying one thing and doing another, and is rarely called on it. He faked everyone off by acting like a Republican centrist to get elected but is little more than a conservative hack . . .

By: Ingleweird on 7/11/11 at 6:26

Slick as an oil spill and as slippery as a snake oil salesman.

By: drusie on 7/11/11 at 6:37

I thought Republicans generally wanted to privatize services rather than having the government do everything on the taxpayers dime. Isn't that what Planned Parenthood does privately raising part of the money? Why kick women's health services back to taxpayer-only-paid local government health offices. Curious reasoning.

By: Moonglow1 on 7/11/11 at 6:41

Moonglow1: Bill Haslam is a puppet of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC). Google them. This group was founded during the Nixon administration to move the USA to the extreme right wing position. They accomplish this goal by bankrolling malleable candidates. They even provide them with legislative templates to further their extreme positions. Candidates are provided talking points. This group also has corporate members such as CCA who wrote the immigration law in Arizona. This law helps to fill their prisons and thus their bottom line. Haslam only cares about furthering the ALEC right wing agenda. It is the same agenda that every Republican governor is following. They are all marching in lock step ignoring your wants & needs but advancing theirs. Compare Haslam to Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Pawlenty, Kasich: all the same no difference: and that means no difference for TN. . We don't matter to guys like Haslam. He is in this to further the extreme Tea agenda.

By: global_citizen on 7/11/11 at 7:18

"But stop forcing your views down the throats of others."

I used to believe in the sovereignty of the individual and the businessman as hero, and the whole Ayn Rand view of the world. Then I grew up and started living in reality.

There seems to be a disconnect with social conservatives when it comes to civil rights progress.

Abolishing slavery, giving women the right to vote, ending child labor, ending segregation. At one time, all of these agendas were denigrated as forcing one set of views over another. But history has proven that expanding human and civil rights is always the right thing to do.

By: global_citizen on 7/11/11 at 7:23

Moonglow, minor correction. It's the American Legislative Exchange Council.

They exchange ideas of how to bait and switch the legislation they drive through state legislatures. They exchange ideas of how to repackage discriminatory legislation that's already been ruled unconstitutional to give it a second go around. They exchange ideas about how to sell creationism as "creation science" and "critical thinking" when it's neither.

By: american1974 on 7/11/11 at 8:02

Wow!! Every lifestyle is a choice!! People go in and out of this as they choose. I hear people say.”I’m a alcoholic because my father was”. Well, first I’m sure there was a lot of influence there, but even if you had some odd passed down gene that made you like alcohol more than another, it still requires action to
be an alcoholic. Let me repeat, it requires action to live a lifestyle of an alcoholic. You make a choice to pick up a beer, to hang out with others that drink, to go to a bar, to not get help. Etc It requires action to live a lifestyle and actions are choices. I have never seen such ignorance that people try to justify any action they can come up with.
As well, it’s pathetic to read comments who claim you have to be religious to have morals?? What? Really? I know plenty of people who are not religious, don’t go to church and have morals.

By: pswindle on 7/11/11 at 8:54

Words fail me. A;ll I can come up with, "What a WIMP." TN is in for a rough ride. We need another election, fast.

By: jctnguy on 7/11/11 at 10:46

TonyGottlieb, could you please share with us what public policy implications you foresee?

By: lamons on 7/11/11 at 11:29

So American1974, when did you decide your sexual preference, I am presuming you choose heterosexuality....what age did you make that choice? Did you consider other options or just went with the way you were born. If you feel you were born that way, how come you can't see someone else might have been born another way.

By: american1974 on 7/11/11 at 12:02

How can anyone lump a lifestyle into gender and race?? That is insane. They having nothing to do with each other. You do not get to choose your race or gender at birth. You do not get a choice between male or female, nor black or white. As well, just because you are born white does not mean you can’t help watching NASCAR or because you were born black you can’t help listening to rap music. Everything is still a choice even if you are – or not born a certain way.
This article is about life style choices. Arguments to lump a lifestyle into civil rights is ridiculous. Even if there is some odd gene that makes someone desire something over another, a life style is a choice! You choose your life style.
It’s an insult for anyone to relate life styles to the civil rights movement. It is as well absurd to say people don’t have choices over their actions. People are heavily influenced by family, lack there- of, friends, TV, movies, society, events, tragic events, religion, guidance, lack of any of these, abuses of all kids, but at the end of the day actions and a lifestyle is still a choice. Everyone has a choice as to which life style they choose for themselves.

By: cityjvtao on 7/11/11 at 12:11

The new Governor is obviously in over his head when it comes to answering pointed questions from anyone other than his own press aid. So it’s now official – we have elected Barney Fife to govern the state. The fact that Governor Haslam wouldn’t know a principled political position if it fell in his lap is no surprise. As H.L. Menkin accurately stated “The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office” and that “looking for an honest politician is like looking for an ethical burglar.”

By: lamons on 7/11/11 at 12:17


So again, american1974, when did you choose your "life style" of heterosexuality? DId your family/friends influence and encourage you to make that choice? Did you look into other options or if not family/friends, did your religion have classes on how to make a choice of sexual preference? Did you get pamphlets, watch movies, shows, etc. to help with that choice?

By: WickedTribe on 7/11/11 at 12:32

I don't think Bill Haslam is a homophobe. I think he's just a politician. The sort of politician who's going to support his party, or what he perceives to be his constituents, regardless of his personal beliefs on the matter. This describes most politicians.

Unfortunately it seems like a significant amount of Republicans these days actually are good people on some level, but they keep letting the christian right or other wingnut elements of their own party control them. So it's still a completely inviable party to vote for.

By: TonyGottlieb on 7/11/11 at 12:47

Public Policy implications ? Let me count the ways .

This one came up today.

Anything that has to do with employee benefits , inheritance, insurance, tax credits, child custody and adoption.

(i.e.) Any child of a same sex family virtually ensures that at least one if not both of that child's biological parents are absent for some reason.

There is nothing wrong in working through them but to implement it through case law exclusively will likely prove disastrous.

By: Ingleweird on 7/11/11 at 2:17

"Lifestyle" is a condescending word only used in reference to homosexuality. George Carlin said [paraphrased]:
You know what a moronic word "lifestyle" is? Here, I'll use it in a sentence:
Attila the Hun led a very active outdoor lifestyle.

By: Tide1 on 7/11/11 at 6:10

What is amazing to me is that these people that are against Gay rights,the Right wing and all of these so called Christians groups have no problem taking tax dollars from the Gay community.Sounds like taxation without representation to me.

By: Liberal Bias on 7/11/11 at 8:06

Governor Haslam's argument that successful business should always seek the best candidates simply does not guarantee gay citizens equal access to the same rights enjoyed by the rest of society. How many corporations were compelled to hire " the best" candidates who happened to belong to a minority group prior to the Civil Rights Act? None. Wall Street sure did the right thing when our government dispensed with regulation. What utter nonsense. How many people even drive the speed limit?

Just because most Americans happen to support a bigoted position does not make it any more valid. The measure of a working democracy should not be how well the majority can impose its beliefs on those in the minority, but rather how effectively it protects ALL of its citizens and values their conflicting points of view. Until someone can demonstrate that two people of either orientation represent a clear and present danger to me, my wife, my children, or the institution of marriage, without citing Biblical justifications, then we as a society are compelled to respect these personal choices.

By: Donna Locke on 7/11/11 at 10:32

Some of you don't understand the issue. Employers should not be allowed to discriminate in hiring when they are paid with public money supplied by the people (and their families) the employers are discriminating against. The key words: public/tax money. If you want to discriminate in hiring, don't apply for public contracts. Our legislature and governor are forcing this injustice on the taxpayers.

"In a world of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

By: Ingleweird on 7/12/11 at 5:48

Eloquently stated, LB.

I am very unimpressed by those that suggest that every hot button issue be brought to the ballot for the voters. This is not a mob rule democracy, but a republic, where we must trust [in theory] our elected representatives to not only reflect our collective will, but to understand the nuances of existing law, and especially constitutional law.

By: FreedomJournal on 7/12/11 at 6:06


Greetings Brethren,

Writer’s Note: There are many things that man cannot take away. In fact many things are limited as to the lost in the world that attempts to deny certain things to the saints. Rebuked, talked about in jest and abused were Noah and the Great Prophets, however, they continued to carryout God’s plans. God’s work continues regardless of the actions or non-action of man. God surely does not need us to participate in any thing in order for Him to accomplish His goals. Thus we do what God would have us to do. In this we pray for His will to be done as it will be.

In the name of God, Master of the Universe, Ruler of the earth

Peace be unto you. To the Church and believing Christians everywhere. To those that believe in the Bible as the supreme authority that governs all of humankind. In this we give thanks to God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit that leads and guides us the straightway.

Beloved there are many Freedoms in today’s world. However the greatest and ultimate Freedom is in God and Christ. For example we have the Freedom to choose God or man or that other fellow who also resides in the world that is destined to destruction.

The Freedom to choose is noted in the principle of free-will. However free-will becomes tainted when we choose some action that violates God’s laws. There is also a principle called tolerance this is also a part of the great Freedom that comes from God. Here we find love as a part of tolerance as those that know God are respectful of others opinions and views however we do not violate Gods laws in pursuit of this tolerance called love.

Meanwhile we come proclaiming that the Bible that we read reveals that all recognized religions lead to Christ. Thus the way to the Father is through Christ.


As I thought about my freedom to worship
I knew none other but Christ. There is only
one God. Thus there is no confusion as to who
is Supreme.

There are many roads to Heaven. But there is
only one way to God and Christ is the key that
unlocks the door. I was moved to see this
as I entered my on-going conversion in 1996.

Therefore I am not confused with the choice
to do anything that I please. I am bound by the
Law and I come not to violate this principle.
Christ is my way to God the Father.

However there will be a merger of the three great
religions. This merger will spell Christianity
as every knee will bow and every tongue
will confess some now and some later.

Blessed also is the remnant among those that
see one God. Blessed also are those that will
come that see gods that will fall and fail
revealing that God is one and only and supreme.

So those that feel the Spirit also feel Jesus.
This is Christianity and the freedom of religion
is inherent in embracing Christ as our Savior.
I thus step outside the flesh into the Spirit world.

By: Ingleweird on 7/12/11 at 8:24

Save your blessings and prayers for someone that cares; I don't need or want them.

Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine.

By: Radix on 7/12/11 at 8:37

Hey Moonglow, thanks for reminding me about Alec again. Great organization. I got on their mailing list. It's great they're doing what they do to try to balance out moveon and Soros and the like and save the US from a really sad socialist detour in our country.

By: Radix on 7/12/11 at 8:57

What a half-baked interview. Jeff Woods is interjecting his opinion as though it were fact, and he is supposed to be the one asking the questions... Haslam did a great job of avoiding the petty traps he set.

Remember when John Kerry (and numerous other people) said 'I am against abortion, but I'm not going tell others what to do'? (paraphrased) Why is not good enough for hiring gay people?

I would never hesitate to hire a gay person if they were right for the job, but forcing my morality on everyone is never the best way to do things.

By: localboy on 7/13/11 at 8:30

"That is hyperbole Donna. There are tremendous public policy implications created by gay marriage. To accuse Haslam, who admits he is struggling with those policy issues, of bigotry is exactly why LGBT issues fail with conservatives."
Many moderates, too.

By: jctnguy on 7/13/11 at 2:17


"Public Policy implications ? Let me count the ways .
This one came up today. mineau-federal-tax
Anything that has to do with employee benefits , inheritance, insurance, tax credits, child custody and adoption."

Actually, I believe the solution to these could all be reached by the repealment of DOMA. If ALL married couples were recognized as such by the federal government, there would not be "implications" being blamed on any one group.

As there are many children growing up in ALL kinds of households in the country with one or more biological parent absent, I don't see the relevance in citing this as an "implication": of marriage equality. Besides, not all married couples, of any orientation, have children. The discussion is marriage, not children.

I agree any implications need to be worked through, but I don't believe the solutions in doing so are difficult enough to justify the continuation of discrimination based on prejudice.

By: mrrnb on 7/13/11 at 4:19

I thought it was one of the most candid, honest interviews I've seen by a public official. Woods is not a journalist. He's a liberal rebel-rouser who had a firm agenda before asking the first question. Shame, shame. News flash: Haslam isn't here to please every Tom, Dick & Harry in Tennessee. If he pisses you off, too bad. He's not in office to fulfill your bucket list.

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while exploring the homosexual side of me, someone on who liked my profile said "we all create our own reality" - how dare he say such a thing to me? so i wrote this:

gee, i thought anyone's reality was predetermined. ha. i never chose to be attracted to slot machines, but the hold they have over me is unbreakable. i just thought i'd try them out with an open mind, i'd been prejudging slots for too long by thinking nothing of them. how do you know you don't like it if you've never tried it...but my life would be better if i had never tried slots. if i had no interest in slots then i shouldn't have questioned my lack of interest by going to a casino. by trying something new, my mind was changed. i thought i was born to be disinterested in casinos, but now i have such an attraction to them. casinos give me a psychological boner. i didn't think my life would have been changed as it was, i guess my predisposition for slot machines had been lying dormant - and that it was only a matter of time before the attraction took full-effect. or, maybe there was no predisposition at all - maybe i simply evolved. that's the way life goes. janet jackson said "that's the way love goes," but the only way anyone is not going to evolve into something different is if he is brain-dead.

i do not like my life's evolution, i do not like the reality i have created for myself. casinos have quite an effect on my brain, but i'm sick of "gamblers anonymous" telling me that it's wrong. who are they to judge? i have been this way for as long as i can remember being this way. sure, i remember when i was not affected by the act of pulling a phallic handle and seeing money ejaculate out, but there was also a time when i was not affected by images of shirtless men. as a skinny boy, it took time for me to realize that masculinity will never do without bulk - it took time for me to have formed that opinion, therefore it took time for me to realize my skinny and meek self as a "slight of man," if you will. likewise, it took time for me to realize casinos as places which could keep my mind occupied with a sense of excitement.

i remember seeing the most perfect specimen of manhood working at giant eagle grocery store in cranberry township (pennsylvania). i was ten feet away from him, just staring at him like ii have started at slot machines - mesmerized. i wanted to touch and play with him as i want to touch and play with slot machines. my interest in both of them is just a product of my own evolution - "that's the way life goes" - nobody's brain was inexplicably created with knowledge of (or an attraction to) anything. "how do you know you don't like it if you've never tried it," the same concept applies to anyone who thinks they were born gay - "how did you know you were attracted to men before you knew what men were (or who you were in relation to men)".

if straight men were born straight, if someone's evolution has nothing to do with gender-identity, wouldn't they have come out of the vagina with a hard-on? would they have even come out of the epitome of submission known as the vagina? if knowledge gained from the way one had evolved has nothing to do with the gender that one is attracted to, if sexual attraction is predetermined at birth, then why aren't little male fetuses opposed to being pushed out of a vagina?

the time it takes for a baby to exit the vagina is not related to his sexual preference. though, if sexual preferences have nothing to do with knowledge or evolution, shouldn't they be related?

mr. dylan terreri, i
dr. sheldon cooper, ii
"When I'm hungry, I eat. When I'm thirsty, I drink. When I feel like saying something, I say it." - Madonna