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.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

TN legislation designed to thwart Metro CAN DO bill imported from Colorado

The Colorado Independent reports on Focus on the Family's role in drafting state legislation across the country designed to undercut municipal non-discrimination ordinances, including the Tennessee legislation meant to stop the Metro Nashville Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance. In Tennessee, Focus on the Family is active through the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

And that should answer the question of who's responsible for HB0598, HB0600, and HB0601. They are part of a national agenda directed at undoing the gains for equality achieved in American cities. That's where the discussion of who caused what ought to end.

Unfortunately, it's not the whole story. Throughout the debate on the Metro CAN DO bill, there has been an undercurrent that either Tennessee's GLBT community or Nashville Metro Council Members have brought this bad state legislation upon ourselves. If we hadn't "overreached" then we wouldn't be facing it. We acted out and drew fire that we should have seen coming. The old blame the victim game gets played out again!

In response: First, we did see it coming. We've been talking about the possibility of such legislation since 2009 when the Metro non-discrimination ordinance passed. Second, why on earth would we blame ourselves for trying to expand job opportunities for our community and fighting discrimination? Isn't the answer to stand together to defeat bad legislation and advance good bills? Third, non-discrimination ordinances expanded to include contractors have been tried in Shelby County and Memphis before. So to argue that Metro Nashville ordinance uniquely triggered the state legislation is to miss recent history. Family Action has been working on ways to fight back for months. Fourth, you can do nothing and bad legislation will still get filed. Our community never took any positive legislative steps to secure marriage or adoption rights in Tennessee and still legislators have worked to restrict those rights. The lesson is clear. It's better to go on the offensive when you can because the other side will always try to make you play defense.

Progressives can't afford to waste the time and energy blaming ourselves for the bad legislation that others are trying to advance. We know where these bills come from. Our job is to unite and fight back!

-Chris Sanders

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