State bill to overturn Nashville's anti-gay bias law likely to pass

Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 3:33pm

State House Speaker Beth Harwell said Thursday she supports legislation to overturn Nashville’s new anti-gay bias ordinance, calling it an unfair burden on businesses.

“I think it will garner the support to pass. I will vote for it,” said Harwell, who represents Green Hills in the legislature. “When a local government mandates to private businesses what their policy regarding employment should be, I do think it’s enough for the state to step in and say that’s not appropriate.”

The ordinance would extend protections against workplace discrimination to gays, lesbians and transgender people working at businesses contracting with the city government. The Metro Council approved it Tuesday night by a vote of 21-15.

The next day, the House Commerce Subcommittee voted for legislation to nullify the ordinance and bar all Tennessee cities from enacting their own policies against gay, lesbian and transgender discrimination.

“I don’t think it’s about sexual preference and those things,” said House Republican leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga. “I think it’s about providing a consistent economic development atmosphere in all 95 counties of the state. The state does have a legitimate role in what local governments do since we charter local governments. They are part of state government.

“We’re talking about companies that come into this state and they want to have an equal playing field all across the state and have some predictability so that they would come to our state rather than some
state that has a mishmash of different laws and business environment,” he added. “That’s what it’s about. It’s about economic development. It’s not about gay people.”

39 Comments on this post:

By: Antisocialite on 4/7/11 at 1:44

Tennessee Constitution Article XI Section 9:

The General Assembly shall have no power to pass a special, local or private act having the effect of removing the incumbent from any municipal or county office or abridging the term or altering the salary prior to the end of the term for which such public officer was selected, and any act of the General Assembly private or local in form or effect applicable to a particular county or municipality either in its governmental or its proprietary capacity shall be void and of no effect unless the act by its terms either requires the approval by a two-thirds vote of the local legislative body of the municipality or county, or requires approval in an election by a majority of those voting in said election in the municipality or county affected.

By: Loner on 4/7/11 at 2:31

The born-again bigots have plenty of good reasons to conceal their real reasons. David Fowler is supplying the talking points....he's a professional zealot.

Contrary to their noble claims, this is all about creating faith-based governance, not creating a welcoming business environment.

Once word gets out about the resurgence of institutionalized bigotry in Tennessee, prospects for new investments will decrease, not increase. Some forward-thinking businesses may even elect to leave the born-again Theocratic Christian Enclave, formerly known as Tennessee.

A few major boycotts of TN as a convention venue should send the proper message to the voters....kick these Christian zealots out of office and back into their hate-filled churches.

By: JeffF on 4/7/11 at 2:39

Tennessee is my state!

Go ahead, boycott the convention venues, it will just prove my point that our government should not base operations on the wishes of tourists and visitors. The churches will survive while the government and its tourism overlords go down in flames.

Businesses are funny creatures, the long time and successful ones will go to areas where they can make money and pay less in taxes. successful businesses are leaving California at an amazing clip and the cities there have had politically correct, feel good legislation for some time. People who think that businesses care about LGBT proptections are probably the ones who think mom-and-pops stores are more important than stores who employe people and give benefits.

By: Loner on 4/7/11 at 2:42

Metro should sue the state in court....there is considerable vagueness about who has the authority to nullify anything.

Metro seems to be on solid legal footing; precedence for local governments exceeding nondiscrimination minimums may be plentiful. Precedence for a state to nullify additional local protections for individual civil liberties are probably very rare.

This internecine squabble could go all the way to the USSC..... if pursued. It could be a long, costly and divisive battle.

By: Loner on 4/7/11 at 2:46

Jeff responds, "Go ahead, boycott the convention venues, it will just prove my point that our government should not base operations on the wishes of tourists and visitors."

From your lips, to God's ear, Jeff.

Enjoy paying for another white elephant.....Nashville has money to burn....so they say.

By: govskeptic on 4/7/11 at 2:52

I'm afraid Loner forgets that he lives in NY and they do things a little different in
that good state, with a different State Constitution than our own. Speaking of
divisive it's already been just that. Of course, the winning side so far has been
those with the taxpayer dollars to purchase influence and swaps within the
council and administration. Glad to see lots of support in the Legislature!

By: oldhickorytony on 4/7/11 at 2:57

Good luck with that state bill being constitutional, Beth Harwell... not in a million years will your bigoted Republican bill stand muster...

By: tardistraveler on 4/7/11 at 3:06

The Metro bill only applies to businesses who choose to do business with the local government. Similar things already apply regarding other minority groups - this really isn't any different.

By: WickedTribe on 4/7/11 at 3:24

I wonder if the Republican voters who claim to be for reducing spending care that this is an epic waste of time and money.

Will you Republican voters complain about the tax dollars wasted on defending this in court? It's going to be for naught since it will be defeated easily.

By: pswindle on 4/7/11 at 3:50

I thought that church and state was separate. I don't know what is happening to TN. It is no longer the state that I know and love. Where did all of these narrow minded people come from? All you have to do is to look at the crimes of the people that hide behind the church. That is the real problem.

By: drusie on 4/8/11 at 5:34

Shades of Ga. Gov. Lester Maddox and his Pickrick Drumsticks. Maddox goal was to halt integration in privately owned businesses.

By: Moonglow1 on 4/8/11 at 6:21

Moonglow1: nationally none of these Republican theo-nuts have respected the rule of law nor the people's wishes. If a law is passed that they do not like they overturn it. It is happening on a national level. And the mantra is; we must protect big business at all costs which means no regulations. And caps on lawsuits for injuries. We the people are nothing but widgets to these corporations. Get the lowest cost widgets you can find & if injured on the job so what. Harwell is nothing but a corporate tool. Business should do the right thing but they don't so need to be regulated. Also any state dumb enough to vote in creationism to be taught in the public school system would seek to overturn this anti-gay law. We live in a state run by complete under educated zealots who are being mocked in the global media. The science of Aqua Net as espoused by Rep. Sheila Buts to dispute climate change is the height of stupidity. Where were these people educated?

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 6:31

pswindle: "I thought that church and state was separate." I know your NEA-member school teacher told you that, but they lied. Look it up in the Constitution. Not there.

Govskeptic, if you are correct that Loner lives in NY, the I for one will begin to ignore his pontifications about Nashville matters. Thanks for that. I'd rather have this conversation with fellow Nashville taxpayers. Anyone else here want to 'fess up and join the "ignore this person" list?

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 6:39

Moonglow1, let me see if I get this right. Dems pass decades of laws. Their president tells the Repubs, "You lost and we won." ...which pretty much sums up the legal philosophy of his Attorney General, as well. And, then, when Repubs vote to undo some of those laws...now that is just "Republican theo-nuts" disrespecting the rule of law. You have a gift for spin.

By: treehugger7 on 4/8/11 at 6:41

Where is it written that you have to live here to post? He makes good points (more frequently than most posters) and obviously has an interest here. This just goes to show how insular tennesseans wish to be, which is the problem here in the first place.

By: Antisocialite on 4/8/11 at 6:47

To all the conservatives that claim to support the Tennessee Constitution, please read my first post (also the first post on this story) and kindly explain how exactly this isn't unconstitutional. I copied it verbatim so if you have issues with the language take it up with the drafters.

By: Moonglow1 on 4/8/11 at 6:56

Moonglow1: frodo-George Bush stole the election from Al Gore. Now miraculously in the WI supreme court justice race where the Democrat declared victory, the Republicans have "located" exactly 7500 previously uncounted votes for the Republican just enough so a recount cannot be mandated. Now in TN a law was passed but no wait the Republicans do not like it. So it must be over turned. The extreme right wing of the Republican party which I have named the Theo-nuts are now in charge of the county & financed by the Koch brothers who are each worth $21 billion. This is not enough money for them so they need to protect their oil & gas interests by debunking climate change. But no worries. Sheila Butts has climate change covered with her Aqua Net theory. The Kochs must be thrilled that they can so easily manipulate the masses.

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 7:02

treehugger, I didn't say you have to live here to post. I'm just suggesting that we ignore those posts.

By: budlight on 4/8/11 at 7:05

A special law to "protect" a special group of people is discriminatory in it's very nature. If you have a "non-discrimination" law, that should be enough. The political agenda of the left is so blatent that it hurts everyone.

The person who is hired for ANY job should be the most qualified person regardless of race, sex, gender or any other reason. MOST QUALIFIED.

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 7:09

I hear ya, Antisocial. This conservative concedes that you may very well be correct that the state constitution disallows the action the legislature proposes. We'll see. I do have respect for the constitution, even when it doesn't suit my preferences.

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 7:10

Moonglow, your mind is a wonder to behold...how you can connect all those dots.

By: global_citizen on 4/8/11 at 7:13

pswindle: "I thought that church and state was separate." I know your NEA-member school teacher told you that, but they lied. Look it up in the Constitution. Not there.
No, not some NEA teacher. Thomas Jefferson told us that.

By: Antisocialite on 4/8/11 at 7:38

Thanks for the acknowledgement frodo, it's nice to see that you won't blindly follow this just because it's coming from 'your side,' but don't you find it just a little counterproductive for the legislature to be wasting our time (and money) with this kind of dog and pony show when there are serious issues in this state that urgently need our attention. It's mind-boggling to me that, in economic times like this, our representatives would choose to go down a path that potentially wastes even more of both the city's and the state's tax dollars on the wholly unnecessary court case that is bound to come. It's extremely stupid, and blatantly political. Except for the attempt to print our own currency, I can't think of another more explicit breach of the constitution (US or Tennessee) than this.

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 8:21

Anti, I'm not ready to conceed that the legislature is wasting its time by acting on the will of many Tennesseans. I'll wait for a judge to decide that. Yes, there are many important issues in our society, but I don't look to government to fix it all, and that is a big difference between libs like you and cons like me. When through extrordinary procedural gymnastics the US Congress sent Obamacare to the Obama, was that wasting our time with unconstitutional action? How about after a judge and many experts questioned the constitutionality of this behemoth? Or are causes like that different because they are important to you? Personally, I don't think Congress had any business going there. The lesson here is that what seems silly to some people is very important to other people. The

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 8:30

global, historical context is that Jefferson was reiterating that government should not interfere with religion. He was not saying that public policy may not spring from the religious convictions of the electorate. But I'm glad you have such respect for the words, intentions and actions of our nation's founders.

By: Activate on 4/8/11 at 8:51

"every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot...they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes."

-Thomas Jefferson

(Source: Letter to Horatio Spafford (1814) in J. Jefferson Looney, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series (2011) Volume 7 Page 248)

By: JDG on 4/8/11 at 9:02

I could be wrong, but it appears that Anti's post refers to the singling out of an individual municipality, however if the law is passed at the State level, and is all inclusive, it would not single out any one specific municipal law, but rather be a blanket covering all.

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 9:33

That Jefferson did not subscribe to the dominant faith system of the day is evident in his attitude toward religion, JDG. But it is a tortured path to overlay that template on the words of the Constitution to change its meaning. The weight of history, his other words and the words of contemporaries bear ample evidence that our Constitution does not bar public policy decisions that are aided by religious belief. Policies of justice and social good have and will be adopted by lawmakers who are motivated by faith views. That does not invalidate those laws.

"The metaphor of a wall of separation is bad history and worse law. It has made a positive chaos out of court rulings. It should be explicitly abandoned."Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, William Rehnquist

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 9:45

Sorry, meant to address my retort to Activate

By: Caity212 on 4/8/11 at 10:47

It may make sense for our elected leaders to embrace the notion of sustainable business development - I think that most of us can agree that societal perceptions of the role of business and government have shifted dramatically in the last two decades or so. Business in general is increasingly being called upon by stakeholders to create solutions to social challenges, and to be advocates for social justice. Governments also have skin in this game. Both entities have for the most part realized that does not matter if someone is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersexed, genderqueer, pansexual, transmasculine, however they self-identify; it is not important. This is because these same people are technicians and analysts, administrators and supervisors, craftspeople and engineers, subject matter experts who bring value and worth to any company they work for and any society they work within. Your loss, Tennessee. Our loss.

By: global_citizen on 4/8/11 at 11:08

frodo, an abundance of Jefferson's writing shows that his intent was to protect the government from religious interference. Not the other way around. I'm not sure where your perspective comes from.

By: Mulachi on 4/8/11 at 12:06

Businesses could care less.

There is already anti-discrimination laws on the books folks. This is political grandstanding at it's most obvious.

By: frodo on 4/8/11 at 5:04

Honest scholars stand on both sides of the Jefferson debate, global. Those who, like Rehnquist, find no rational basis for the currently popular concept of "separation of church and state" are the ones I happen to find convincing.And so we will disagree.

By: Mike Burch on 4/8/11 at 7:53

The Republicans legislate against gays, Hispanics, Muslims, teachers and unions at whim. But if anyone tries to pass positive legislation, suddenly the government "has no business" butting in.

The hypocrisy is palpable. The intention is clear. We are seeing religion attempt to impose a false "morality" on an otherwise free people.

Politicians like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Beth Harwell will soon have us back in the Dark Ages, if we let them. We need to organize and make sure that every American citizen with a functional brain votes these morons out of office, pronto.

By: GUARDIAN on 4/9/11 at 10:50

GUARDIAN-GOOD. Did I see it's Bush's fault up there. ROFLMFAO What a bunch of retards. Is this San Fansucko.

By: pswindle on 4/10/11 at 9:40

Why discriminate? Beth, stay with running the House and stay out of Metro's business.

By: TharonChandler on 4/12/11 at 4:17

I'm Strait, I happen to be a Christian, and though i once sufferred a severe 'gay bashing' i see no reason to acknowledge anything normal about open homosexuality; as for any government or public policy . I obviously have taken no stand 'against' anyone's own choices but i ain't Gay.

By: Nitzche on 4/12/11 at 6:28

What ? These republicans are not going to let me marry who I want? Who are they to say I cannot marry multiple partners? if I want to travel the hershey highway or munch a little carpet, then i am leaving this backwards state!!

By: bartsdad on 4/13/11 at 7:33

I'm finally seeing something in Nashville to be proud of...this law is a no-brainer...you want to discriminate...go do it on your own time and not align it with our government.

"[T]he job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That's our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment."

~Bayard Rustin

This is why we need this law.