Business leaders, Christian conservatives work with GOP to defeat nondiscrimination bill

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 11:31am

Business leaders, Christian conservatives and Republican lawmakers are actively working to defeat a Metro Council bill that would require companies that contract with the city to adopt nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The filing of the bill, first reported by The City Paper, followed the controversial dismissal of Belmont University’s dismissal women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe in December.

About 40 business leaders and other conservatives attended a Wednesday morning meeting organized at the downtown LifeWay building to discuss a bill sponsored by council members Jamie Hollin and Mike Jameson that would apply Metro’s current nondiscrimination policy to third-party vendors that do business with the city.

The Christian group Family Action Council of Tennessee organized the meeting. A reporter from The City Paper was not granted access to attend the gathering, and was asked to wait in the lobby.

David Fowler, who heads the Family Action Council of Tennessee, voiced concern when contacted.

"When local government start creating additional regulations for business, you can wind up with a hodgepodge of laws that begin to impede the free flow of intra state commerce," said Fowler, a former state senator from Hamilton County.

Among those in attendance were Republicans lawmakers state Rep. Glen Casada and Jim Gotto, who currently serves a dual role as Metro councilman and state representative.

“I have concerns how this [bill] will affect the business community and the ability to attract new businesses and increase the opportunities in Davidson County,” Gotto told The City Paper as he left the meeting, adding that it could have a “chilling effect.”

The ordinance is up for the first of three votes on Jan. 18. It appears the strategy to defeat the bill will be to have it pulled for a rare vote on first reading next week. Normally, all bills are passed on the first of three votes under council procedures. 

“I feel certain that someone would pull the bill on first reading,” Gotto said. “If somebody doesn’t, then I more than likely will. I think this [bill] is a serious, serious problem for us from a business community standpoint in Davidson County.”

Business leaders in attendance on Wednesday included Stan Hardaway of Hardaway Construction and Lee Beaman of Beaman Automotive.

Attendees declined to respond to questions from The City Paper as they left.

Mayor Karl Dean has not revealed his stance on the bill, but in a recent interview with The City Paper he indicated reluctance to regulate the private sector.

Contacted for his response, Jameson said he would “ask Councilman Gotto to remember the impassioned speeches he himself has given on the floor about the perils of voting on legislation on first reading before there’s been any analysis.

“I would also ask him if he would have the courtesy to call just one of the sponsors to discuss any concerns he may have with the legislation,” Jameson continued. “But to date, he has not seen fit to do so.”

Hollin, who like Jameson represents parts of East Nashville, said it was “not unexpected” to learn the bill could be pulled separately on first reading. He also suggested Wednesday’s meeting was premature.

“The meeting they had this morning was a little bit in advance of the legislation,” Hollin said. “They haven’t even read it. They’ve only read press accounts.

“It’s current policy for our contractors to sign an affidavit stating that they did not discriminate on the basis of race, age and disability,” he said. “What harm would it be in adding four other terms — sexual orientation and gender identity?"

12 Comments on this post:

By: localboy on 1/12/11 at 12:48

Since vendors already have to sign the affidavit, not much harm in revising that document - just don't go and add paperwork for papers sake.

By: Alphadog7 on 1/12/11 at 2:42

Why would Jameson and Hollin want to legislate their morality onto the city's vendors? Not very tolerant and inclusive.

By: RTungsten on 1/12/11 at 9:31

Look at the demographics of East Nashville and you will see why this is getting so much attention from Jameson and Hollin.

By: govskeptic on 1/13/11 at 6:34

"East Nashville" the heart and sole of Metro Politics? If they don't
steal your lawnmower, they will your vote!

By: Karl_Warden on 1/13/11 at 8:01

What goal do they desire to be achieved by this measure?

Is it freedom? Certainly freedom is a laudable goal in the abstract. In this case it appears to be freedom to discriminate against a whole group of people while drawing from the public coffers. If these wonderful businessmen wish to discriminate, perhaps they should be content to not seek public contracts, where they are paid from tax dollars gained from all kinds of people; including the people against whom they desire to discriminate.

What public good would be achieved by allowing businesses to discriminate?

Would it make people say "Oh gosh, I won't be able to get a job, so I ought to choose to be straight"? Such a notion is nonsense, so perhaps it is some other goal.

Oh yes, the goal is to cater to those who understand Christ to have stood for judging people different from you harshly. You know, just like Jesus judged all those tax collectors, Samaritans, and so forth.

By: HighlyAnnoyed on 1/13/11 at 8:11

Why is it any christian group with the word "Family" in it is a hate-based organization?

By: TN4th on 1/13/11 at 9:36

I cannot understand why people who present themselves as "christian" are so determined to provide haven for discrimination and hate. It is an embarrassment to Tennessee to have these public displays of bigotry and backwardness, and it discourages businesses from relocating here.

By: LordInfamous on 1/13/11 at 10:09

Isn't it ironic, local churches telling government to stay out of business, but inserting their religious beliefs into local business.

By: brrrrk on 1/13/11 at 11:17

TN4th said

"I cannot understand why people who present themselves as "christian" are so determined to provide haven for discrimination and hate. It is an embarrassment to Tennessee to have these public displays of bigotry and backwardness, and it discourages businesses from relocating here."

Those same people would scream like a stuck pig if the shoe were on the other foot and they (Christians) were discriminated against. And the reality is that there are some that are just fine with the idea that some businesses would be discouraged in coming here, especially if they are friendlier to gays.... in spite of the economic conditions in the state.

By: brrrrk on 1/13/11 at 11:19

LordInfamous said

"Isn't it ironic, local churches telling government to stay out of business, but inserting their religious beliefs into local business."

And this is exactly why I believe that religious institutions should lose their tax free status.

By: shinestx on 1/13/11 at 1:05

Um, it is in fact discriminatory to have this "non discrimination" law. How so? Well, if the state is going to require all companies to adhere to this law, then that alone could violate the policies of (say) a family owned business. And what if it were a Muslime company? I guess in that case, the Dem-wits will want to make an exception. Sorry but that is a double standard we all can live without.

By: trtay2004 on 1/13/11 at 3:39

"When local government start creating additional regulations for business, you can wind up with a hodgepodge of laws that begin to impede the free flow of intra state commerce," said Fowler, a former state senator from Hamilton County.

Oh my Mr Fowler..... I suppose all your restrictions your group has done to regulate business doesn't impred on business at all, huh? Keep preaching your double standards.