Legislators squash gay, lesbian component of Casada bill limiting local governments

Sunday, March 6, 2011 at 10:05pm
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Glen Casada (Joon Powell for The City Paper)

Call it arrogant and heavy-handed or refreshing and bold, depending on your viewpoint, but some Republicans in the legislature clearly aimed to impose their will on the state’s more liberal biggest cities on a sweeping array of issues. At first this session, it seemed they could.

With unusual speed in the session’s opening week, the Republican majority rammed through legislation to postpone for two school years any attempt by the mostly black Memphis city school system to merge with the wealthier, whiter Shelby County district. Democrats were dismayed.

“The next thing you know, the legislature’s going to solve that Nashville fairgrounds problem because obviously the people of Davidson County don’t have enough sense to solve it,” an exasperated Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle said then. “I guess they’ll just file a bill to fix that. Why not? Republicans know it all. Republicans say, ‘We’re state government and we’re here to help.’ ” 

And so it was that most state government insiders expected quick approval of another piece of legislation, this one to bring Nashville to heel. 

That bill was filed not on the fairgrounds issue, as Kyle jokingly predicted, but in response to a proposed Metro Nashville ordinance that would extend protections against workplace discrimination to gays, lesbians and transgender people working at businesses contracting with the city government. Drawn broadly to encompass all municipalities, it would bar them from enacting their own policies on discrimination, as well as minimum wages, health care and family leave.

Proponents were moving quickly to try to win legislative approval before the Metro Council could give final OK to its ordinance. But last week, a House Commerce subcommittee derailed the bill at least for now by voting 7-6 against an amendment. Two Republicans joined Democrats and the legislature’s one independent, Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton, in defeating the amendment. The sponsor — the crusading conservative Rep. Glen Casada, a Republican from Williamson County — then postponed his bill for two weeks.

A surprised Casada acknowledged he was taken aback. Not only were lawmakers voting with gays and lesbians — not exactly an influential lobby in this bright-red state — but they were bucking Tennessee’s usually almighty conservative Christians, who wrote Casada’s bill. 

“The bill’s not dead,” Casada insisted afterward. “The winds are blowing coldly. That’s true. But the bill is still alive.”

Casada said he would meet with legislators on the subcommittee over the next two weeks “to see if we can come up with something that they’re comfortable with.”

Conservative Christian leader David Fowler played the bad cop, immediately vowing to make these lawmakers uncomfortable. He said his group, the Family Action Council of Tennessee, would bombard the representatives with angry emails from home. 

“We’ll have to make their constituents understand how their legislators have voted,” Fowler said. 

He blamed the defeat on heavy lobbying by the state’s four largest cities — Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga. On the eve of the vote, half the 40-member Nashville Metro Council signed onto a resolution condemning the bill for overstepping the state’s authority to determine how municipal governments operate. 

“The big four cities that want to expand their powers beyond that of state and federal government have been lobbying against the bill in recent days. That’s exactly it,” Fowler said.

He said the bill’s defeat would mean “any city could now decide to let workers have a day off if their dog dies. That just creates a nightmare for businesses. It really does hamstring the flow of commerce from community to community.” 

Fowler’s group is a subsidiary of the Rev. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, which is orchestrating these fights in Colorado, Kansas and elsewhere. In February, Montana’s House of Representatives approved a bill that would overrule a Missoula city ordinance prohibiting employment and housing discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender.

Focus on the Family obviously is trying to stop the advancement of gay rights. But in an apparent attempt to avoid putting off more moderate lawmakers, the group couches its opposition as aimed at preventing new burdensome business regulations and laws.

Metro Council member Mike Jameson, one sponsor of the proposed Nashville ordinance, scoffs at the contention that the city is harming the economy by barring discrimination against gays. 

“If they can point — not to a dozen, not to 10, not to a hundred — if they can point to one city that has adopted this legislation and can demonstrate any data showing an economic deleterious effect, that would be great for us to consider,” Jameson said. “The problem is that while they’ve raised these concerns, they haven’t raised any data to demonstrate it. On the other hand, we have shown them similar ordinances in Louisville, in Austin, in Seattle, and all of them seem to be doing OK. We’ve shown them over 60 companies in Nashville that have the same policy. And these companies, like Bridgestone, seem to be doing OK.” 

Jameson pointed out that social conservatives made the same arguments two years ago, when the council adopted an ordinance banning discrimination against gay city employees. 

“They said all of these calamities were going to befall the city of Nashville if we dared pass that ordinance, including an economic downturn and an explosion in litigation,” he said. “And looking around, I see that birds are still singing and the sky is still blue. There has not been an explosion of litigation. Businesses have not been thwarted by this ordinance.” 

Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project — a GLBT advocacy group — said lawmakers voted against Casada’s bill not to protect gays, but to stop an outrageous state power grab. Casada himself acknowledged it was possible social conservatives had overreached by writing their bill to include policies on health care and other areas. 

Sanders said lawmakers didn’t mind denying gay rights, but they objected to “collateral damage.” 

“The bill was aimed at our community — the gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. But to lawmakers, the damage is the precedent it sets for micromanaging cities,” Sanders said. 

The Metro Council is scheduled to vote March 15 for final passage of the proposal. Casada said he would bring his bill back before the House subcommittee the day after that vote. From the way some of its members were talking last week, odds are the bill is dead. 

Rep. Williams criticized the measure for “stepping on the toes of local municipalities.” 

“This has nothing to do with gays or moral values,” he said. “We don’t want the federal government coming in and telling us what to do and trying to force health care down our throat, and now here we are trying to force something on the municipalities that they don’t want. So to me, it was an easy vote.”  

27 Comments on this post:

By: Captain Nemo on 3/7/11 at 4:59

It seems that two conservative are not the Damn All That Does Not Think As I Do, kind of politician the Tea Party wants. My question is why are Rep Casada and other Republicans law makers so intent on how people live, instead of making more jobs.

Why are the conservative so concentrate on the bedroom theme, than looking for means in improving the quality of life for people?

By: GuardianDevil01 on 3/7/11 at 6:31

These self-proclaimed conservatives will tell you that problems and issues should be addressed at the lowest level of government possible... until it serves their purpose to pass laws at the state or federal level. Religiosos have demonstrated time and time again that they will compromise whatever putative limited-government constitutional principles they might have in order to promote their religious agenda. If we must rely on these types to roll back the power of statism then we are doomed.

By: mariebarbara on 3/7/11 at 7:17

James Dobson has not been associated with Focus on the Family for over a year now.
And Mr. Dobson never was a Reverend. He has his PhD. In child development. Family Action of TN is a nonprofit corporation organized under the laws of Tennessee and section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It is governed by a volunteer board of directors from across the state.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/7/11 at 8:04

I think that GuardingDevi01 also thinks that there are no true conservatives left in the GOP. I think so too. It seems that a deep-seated hate group as taken over and is hell-bent on a one party government for Tennessee.

By: OPENmindedONE on 3/7/11 at 10:23

Don't forget that the awful Jim Gotto is also involved in this attack on municipal freedom. Only 20 more months til we get the chance to toss that idiot and his skeezey mustache back onto the street. Ick.

By: pswindle on 3/7/11 at 10:34

The GOP does not want government in their lives, but they want government in our lives. Who is the Casada? TN wake up and let's throw the bigots out of office. Don't vote for someone because there is a R beside thier name. That's what has happened in TN and we are getting unqualified people running our government, and that includes Haslam. Goodness! Look what we have for the next four years.

By: global_citizen on 3/7/11 at 10:46

[Fowler] blamed the defeat on heavy lobbying by the state’s four largest cities — Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga. On the eve of the vote, half the 40-member Nashville Metro Council signed onto a resolution condemning the bill for overstepping the state’s authority to determine how municipal governments operate.

In other words, how dare these cities stand up and assert autonomy that defies the wishes of David Fowler and the religious right.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/7/11 at 11:04

When Republican legislators think that a Corporation has right over municipalities and the people that live in them don’t, then I think that it is time to remove them from office.

Because if we don’t then at some point we will have to start to clock-in to vote and vote the way they want before we get paid.

By: manicsquirrel on 3/7/11 at 11:07

I know it is easy to get the two confused, but you are using "Family Action Council of Tennessee" and "Focus on the Family" interchangeably. While I'm sure they have the same membership, they are two different organizations.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/7/11 at 11:54

Would you please explained the deference in the two organization manicsquirrel.

By: AmyLiorate on 3/7/11 at 12:23

Anyone seen this segment from CBS news?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EUR5Dh0zBw

Our own ATF purposely has let hundreds of AK47 and 50 caliber rifles go into Mexico. I thought our governments main purpose is to protect us, now our citizens and even border agents are being killed by the ATF's negligence and failure.

By: GUARDIAN on 3/7/11 at 12:30

GUARDIAN-Special rights for gays or whatever you want to call them. Special rights for illegals or whatever you want to call them. Special rights for muslims or whatever you want to call them. Special rights for minorities or whatever you want to call them. How about the rights of Americans who work, pay taxes and pay their own way to keep what belongs to them. How about taking all these special rights, race cards, political correctness and sticking them where the sun never shines. Now what is something over half the country can say yes to. In fact and believe me when I say it's coming faster than a runaway freight train with no brakes going down the mountain. It's straight track, it can't be derailed and anyone who tries won't be around when it coast to a stop at freedom station. Now can I hear a whine from from the left because that's all you've got from here on out..

By: GUARDIAN on 3/7/11 at 1:31

GUARDIAN-AmyLiorate you are correct about the ATF but what the main stream news isn't telling you is most of weapons, especially the assault type and all the full automatic (machine gun) weapons which are used the most come out of Venezuela. They only report about the guns from America which are the minority of the weapons found and used in Mexico. Venezuela has flooded Central America and Mexico with old M16's from when they were friendly with the US and AK47's that they got from Russia when they replaced the AK47's with the AK variant AK103. In fact Venezuela is starting to build the AK103 at plants in Venezuela licensed by the Russian government. By flooding Central America and Mexico with these weapons Venezuela hopes to destabilize that part of the world. Arming marxist revolutionaries and drug cartels aides Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez dream of a communist South and North America. Now let the left begin their whining here.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/7/11 at 1:35

GUARDIAN

How about special right for human being. Your welcome to join, but you will have to change that nasty attitude first.

By: gdiafante on 3/7/11 at 2:03

Guardian must think he lives in the 18th century.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/7/11 at 2:15

Oh, my mistake. I thought he was posting from the 18th century, gdia.

By: AmyLiorate on 3/7/11 at 2:48

If we ended drug prohibition then dealers and cartels wouldn't have drug money to buy huge 50 caliber guns and high capacity rifles. Nor would they have a reason to fight other gangs over territory.

By: GUARDIAN on 3/7/11 at 2:52

GUARDIAN-I see the cockroaches are whining from where the sun never shines. LMAO

By: gdiafante on 3/7/11 at 3:12

Ok kids, today's word is whine, brought to you by Guardian. Tomorrow's word will be irony.

By: airvols on 3/7/11 at 3:45

The Tea Party/Republicans might as well pull out their white hoods and sheets. Damn them gay people they are so successful they are taking our jobs and becoming CEO's and Executives. LOL what a bunch of loosers!

By: Captain Nemo on 3/7/11 at 4:05

GUARDIAN is so low to the ground, that he can hear cockroaches. I would not brag about your size if I were you GUARDIAN. People might get the idea to step on you.

By: cookeville on 3/7/11 at 6:12

The republican party has been hijacked by religious extremists who are not a whit better than their Muslim counterparts. The ONLY difference is that there are enough people in most states of the Union to tell them to go fly kites. But if Casada and his ilk have their way, anyone who thinks differently, lives differently, and has a different god, will be marginalized, just like the Jews do to the Palestinians now and just like we did to the Indians, the blacks, and now to the Hispanics, Mexicans, gays, and anyone else these people deem inferior. They are awful people and it's a tragedy beyond belief that the good people of Tennessee fell for their nonsense. That is, of course, unless the good people think that no one but their kind should live their lives in peace and happiness.

By: GUARDIAN on 3/7/11 at 8:15

GUARDIAN-:) I do believe I have all the cockroaches blood pressure up. Relax and I'll give you something to drink. It will take an extra minute or two I have to get this zipper unstuck. LOL

By: WickedTribe on 3/8/11 at 8:14

Finally some good news. Maybe this state will get sick of the Republicans they voted for like Wisconsin has.

By: localboy on 3/9/11 at 9:34

Maybe next time, Mr. Casada.

By: Nitzche on 3/11/11 at 2:53

a victory for the Carpet industry!

By: DorthyJensen26 on 1/6/12 at 10:49

Do you acknowledge that this is the best time to get the loans, which would help you.