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.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Finally! A statewide conversation about job discrimination

We had to wait until 2011, but Tennessee is finally having a statewide conversation about job discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Rough week for the Governor: Every day this week the national and local media have hit Governor Bill Haslam hard for signing SB632/HB600, the Special Access to Discriminate law that overturns Metro's Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance, prevents any city or county from adopting a similar law, and redefines "sex" in the Tennessee code to the detriment of transgender people. The number of national stories is staggering--Forbes, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal included. But the real zingers have come out of Tennessee. Yesterday's Nashville Scene was blistering. This piece in today's Knoxville News Sentinel hits many of the same notes.

Conversation continues: Senator Jim Kyle's revelation that he has filed a bill to repeal SB632/HB600 guarantees that the conversation will continue over the summer. In fact, that seems to have been his idea, according to the Tennessean: “It keeps the discussion going,” he said. “It seems like the business community was late to the party. To me, it merits a second look.”

And then there's the court challenge. Abby Rubenfeld confirmed on Monday that there's going to be one. There will be coverage once it gets filed and each step of the way.

What kind of conversation?: So it's pretty clear that some kind of conversation is going to continue for at least the near future, but what kind? It's important that we don't lose the fact that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity occurs in Tennessee, affects real people, and is unjust. The remedies of Sen. Kyle's bill and the lawsuit are designed to address real wrongs. The loss of local control in our cities and counties is one of them. But the original point was and is that people endure discrimination that hurts them and their families and serves no business purpose. Maybe now that the business community has done a 180-degree turn, we can end the pretend debate about the "burdens" to business and focus on the real burdens to people trying to make a living.

-Chris Sanders

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