Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

CAN DO update: Bill deferred, support grows, and reaction from the religious right

Deferred one meeting: Last night the Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance (BL2011-838) was deferred one meeting in Metro Council's Budget & Finance Committee, setting second reading for the Feb. 15 meeting. Some of you will recall that the attempt to defer the 2009 ordinance in committee met with resistance. Normally allowing the sponsors to defer a bill is basic councilmanic courtesy, but the opponents tried to block the deferral in order to defeat the bill that time. So the bill has overcome another hurdle in the effort to get time to build more support among Council Members.

Support grows: 41 businesses and 17 other organizations including 4 congregations now support the CAN DO bill for a total of 58 supporters. You can find the list here. One supporter I'd like to highlight is the endorsement of the Tennessee Tribune. It's an honor to have the backing of Middle Tennessee's largest African American newspaper.

Right wing reacts, still off message: In their Jan. 31 newsletter, the Family Action Council takes aim at Belmont University for opening the door to more inclusive policies and at the CAN DO bill. Despite attempting to devote as much ink as possible to the business case against the ordinance, you don't have to read too long to figure out that a cultural/fundamentalist agenda is driving their opposition to the bill.

Here's a sample:

In other words, nothing about this ordinance has anything to do with creating jobs or stimulating the economy or reducing the cost of government. It is a social agenda pure and simple, and business leaders are beginning to rise up and say, “Enough. Leave us alone. We are not social agenda advancement agencies for government.”

First, many small businesses support this ordinance that creates access to jobs and no business leader who opposes the bill is willing to be quoted in mainstream media sources. Perhaps they're rising up in the shadows or in closed door meetings, but they're not doing so in public yet. Second, the agenda that FACT speaks of hinges on discrimination. Our agenda is reducing it and FACT's is to preserve the special right to discriminate using taxpayer money. How do we know? It's simple. If business leaders won't publicly state what FACT says are the business arguments against the ordinance, then guess what, they're not real business arguments. They are the rhetoric of business arguments designed to appeal to the moderate to progressive political climate in Nashville.

And if you're still not convinced, here's what FACT said about Belmont in the same newsletter:

First, let me say that Belmont University, as a private institution, is free to have whatever policies it wants, at least so long as they are not in violation of state and federal law. Thus it was certainly within the prerogative of its Trustees to include sexual orientation as a protected status in its governing policies.

But to say, in the same breadth, that its faculty and staff are expected to “uphold high Christian standards of morality, ethics and conduct?” Come on. Please don’t expect us to believe that.

How can you uphold a Christian ethic when the Bible you supposedly adhere to says, without equivocation: “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:10).

The bottom line is that FACT is fighting for businesses and other entities to have the privilege of firing people its leaders believe are sinners--a belief that has no bearing on job performance. And in the case of CAN DO, they are fighting for the right of businesses receiving taxpayer dollars to fire people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

-Chris Sanders

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