Sunday, May 15, 2011
Regrets, I've had a few, but CAN DO ain't one of them
Now that the TN House and Senate have passed HB600/SB632 (with one difference in the Senate version that will soon be worked out), the Special Access to Discriminate bill will be headed to Governor Bill Haslam's desk. Barring a miracle veto, which we are nonetheless pressing for, the bill will become law.
Last week a Metro Nashville Council Member asked me whether I regretted the whole thing--the work for the Metro Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance and having to fight the state bills introduced to stop it and stop any city or county from passing a similar ordinance. The answer is "NO!"
Do I regret that the the majority in the Legislature is anti-equality and tried to frame the issue as a business argument even though there was no study on the business impact of the Metro bill or the state bills? Of course. But I don't regret the work that went into the passage of CAN DO or that everyone put into fighting the state bills.
The Gains: Since the whole discussion began back in December, here's what's different. (a) Belmont University has begun a serious effort at welcoming diversity on its campus. They have more work to do, but they're in a different place. (b) Metro boards and commissions have been updating their non-discrimination policies to conform to the Metro non-discrimination ordinance of 2009. (c) We confirmed that we have a pro-equality consensus in Metro Nashville Government. The city has sent a clear message, even if the state guts the specifics of the ordinance. (d) At last, a statewide conversation on workplace discrimination has begun. Granted, it has been joined by questions of local authority and some fantasy of a "uniform business climate," but it has begun. In that regard, we can't forget how wonderful it was to be allied with Tennessee's four largest cities in opposing the state bills, to receive the support of a Shelby County Commission resolution, or the support of local lawmakers from the Knox County Commission, Jackson City Council, Oak Ridge City Council, and the Memphis City Council. (e) We know where our gaps are in the Legislature. The one positive about a negative vote is that you have a clear map of where you need to build support and you'd better believe we are going to work on that. (f) Our community and our allies are fully awake to the need to be engaged with our Legislature. That is a positive and it will yield strength for other fights!
It ain't over 'til it's over: If Governor Haslam signs SB632/HB600, the matter won't be over. Various groups are talking about filing suit to overturn it. And other options are under consideration. Stay tuned, but don't count us out!