Disregarding arguments that they are behaving with a “dictator attitude,” state senators voted Thursday to nullify Metro Nashville’s anti-gay bias ordinance and to bar any other Tennessee city from adopting such laws in the future.
The state House adopted the conservative Christian-backed bill on April 25. It now returns to the House for concurrence on a routine amendment, at which point Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign it into law.
The bill’s Republican proponents cast it as an attempt to help the economy in Tennessee by prohibiting conflicting regulations in cities across the state.
“When it comes to nondiscrimination practices, we should be consistent across this state,” said Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Brentwood. “When we get into a situation where various counties and various municipalities have different policies with regards to discrimination, I think we start down a very slippery slope.”
Democrats pointed out the Metro ordinance doesn’t ban discrimination by all businesses in Davidson County but only those contracting with the city. It requires those companies to adopt policies agreeing not to discriminate in hiring on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
“We’re business-friendly. We’ve worked hard to be a business-friendly city,” Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville, said. “When the council passed this, they knew exactly what they were doing. I would ask you to hold up this judgment of [Metro] Council members, who were overwhelmingly elected to take care of Metro Nashville’s business. This impacts Nashville only. I’d really hate to think that those persons who come from everywhere else would take on a dictator attitude toward council members, who have been duly elected to do what they do.”
The Christian conservative Family Action Council of Tennessee put heavy pressure on lawmakers to vote for the state legislation, producing a video that suggested that city ordinances against gay discrimination would open women’s restrooms to child molesters. In the video, a little girl entered a women’s restroom at a public park followed by a sinister looking man.
“Do gender differences matter to you?” the video’s narrator asked. “Is that the kind of Tennessee you want?”