Gov. Bill Haslam is defending his decision to sign legislation that nullifies Nashville’s new gay rights ordinance, saying “we just don’t think local governments should set HR policies for businesses.”
“I don’t think many Tennesseans feel like we don’t have enough mandates on businesses,” Haslam said Tuesday in Chattanooga at the opening of the Volkswagen plant. “This had the concurrence of 70 percent of the legislature.”
Conservative Christians were the main lobbying force behind the new state law. It also enjoyed the backing of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, but the group withdrew its support Monday as Haslam was considering whether to sign the bill into law. Several corporations, including Nissan and Whirlpool, had publicly condemned the legislation as gay rights activists mounted a public lobbying campaign demanding that the governor veto the bill.
The Metro Nashville ordinance bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by companies doing business with the city.
“We thought a lot about this, because I don’t like state government telling local governments what to do,” Haslam told reporters. “But I also don’t think local governments should tell local businesses what to do either.
“We are not in favor of discrimination. I want to be real clear about that,” Haslam said. “We are in favor of businesses deciding within federal laws what their policy should be. We just don’t think local governments should set HR policies for businesses.”