Metro to file amicus brief in lawsuit aimed at state, Haslam

Friday, August 19, 2011 at 1:59pm

The Metro Department of Law is prepared to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case involving a group of Nashvillians suing the state of Tennessee over the constitutionality of a new state law that nullified Metro’s nondiscrimination policy for city contractors.

But it’s unclear when the city would file the amicus brief, which would allow Metro to serve as an impartial party to assist the court. At the moment, court proceedings haven’t reached a point to warrant the action.

A hearing before Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy is set for Sept. 16. 

“The Department of Law is reviewing the current status of the pleadings and, in order to protect the legal interests of the Metropolitan Government, will file an amicus brief at the appropriate time,” Sue Cain, legal department director, said in written statement. 

The key words in Cain’s statement seem to be “will file.” Cain provided Metro’s position to The City Paper one day after the Metro Council voted 26-9 Tuesday to approve a non-binding memorializing resolution to ask the legal department to support the plaintiffs’ suit against Gov. Bill Haslam in the form of the amicus brief.

Despite furious opposition from Christian conservatives, the council in April approved an ordinance to require companies that do business with the city to add sexual orientation and gender identity to their employee protection policies. Mayor Karl Dean signed the bill into law.

But the new policy was quickly overturned by the Republican-dominated state legislature, which passed what bill sponsor Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) called the Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act. Signed into law by Haslam, the measure prevents local municipalities from forcing private businesses to adopt protections for gay, lesbian and transgender employees.

The state’s action was met in June by a Davidson County Chancery Court lawsuit that questions the constitutionality of the state law, but Metro government didn’t sign on as a plaintiff.

Instead, notable plaintiffs include Council members Erik Cole, Erica Gilmore and Mike Jameson; gay rights advocate Lisa Howe; the Tennessee Equality Project; and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. Haslam is the only listed defendant.

Though the amicus brief wouldn’t add Metro to the list of plaintiffs, it could provide key testimony.

“It lends a lot of gravitas to the case that Metro would be filing the brief,” said Chris Sanders, chairman of the Tennessee Equality Project’s Nashville Committee. “We have a great coalition of plaintiffs, but the fact that Metro, one of the largest cities in the state, would lend its view to the case will certainly be a boost.”

Abby Rubenfeld, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said she’s pleased Metro would offer the amicus brief. She interprets the decision as Metro backing the plaintiffs’ cause.

“I’m happy that Metro is supporting our side,” Rubenfeld said. “I think there’s important issues aside from whether people are going to be treated equally in our state. There’s also issues about the authority of local governments, and I’m glad Metro’s going to speak up on those.”  

8 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 8/19/11 at 5:57

It is about time that someone stood up to Haslam and the TN State House and Senate.
I'm so glad that WI and OH are getting their due.

By: left on 8/20/11 at 10:54


By: govskeptic on 8/22/11 at 4:11

Noted the Metro Dept of Law waited until they knew they had a cooperating
Chancellor that would be hearing the case before they stated their interest
in filing. Will this be handled by Law Dept personnel or do we need to throw
a few more dollars to outside counsel?

By: budlight on 8/22/11 at 6:38

Gov, you so hit the nail on the head. And that little V'bilk (yes I said "bilk") article about Wiccan or "which-craft" sort of ties into this Dean administration policy!

"Despite furious opposition from Christian conservatives, the council in April approved an ordinance to require companies that do business with the city to add sexual orientation and gender identity to their employee protection policies. Mayor Karl Dean signed the bill into law."

It's so tiresome. We are a country founded on Christian principles and by Christians. When is the left going to wake up?

By: Radix on 8/22/11 at 8:00

It's important that Haslam wins this. These people want to regulate the life out of small businesses and force their version of morality on everyone. No one should hesitate to hire a gay person if they are right for the job, but this excessive regulation is unnecessary, un business-friendly, and its really just pandering to their constituents.

By: macjedi on 8/22/11 at 8:29

...ignoring blathering neanderthal all-caps posts is so much easier.

Otherwise it is always funny to watch this city's detractors attempt to keep it in the dark ages. I am VERY GLAD my tax dollars would be blocked from a-holes running small businesses that discriminate. I've encountered a lot of conservatives who don't approve of things like some people's orientation, but they also don't seek to force their own will on others, regardless of their "faith". It is the ones who seek such force who are truly dangerous, evil in intent, and hold a city back from growing up.

By: JKennedyMD on 8/22/11 at 8:48

Homosexuality, adultery and fornication are both sins, choices made by the participant to given into their self-indulgent sin nature. One is not born to commit these behaviors, other than the fact we are all born as sexual creatures. To permit these behaviors is like saying that its OK to overeat or abuse our bodies with food just because we were born to eat.

While these choices are heavily rooted in the traumas of one's upbringing, society's own permissive sicknesses, and the fundamental need everyone has to be wanted and accepted, their practice are very harmful and separates one from God.

Why Mayor Dean does not see this perplexes me

By: Moonglow1 on 8/22/11 at 8:55

Moonglow1: the Christian conservatives need to respect the separation of church and state. Our founding fathers were not all Christians. Many of them were Freemasons. Also most of the Christian conservatives in politics are gay: examples include Lynn Cheney (Dick's daughter), Ken Melhman (former RNC under Bush), and several congressmen we all know. So uphold the will of the voters of Davidson County. So tired of Haslam pandering to the fringe element ( tea nuts) now known as the mainstream Republican Party.