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, July 9, 2011

Woods and Haslam: Historic interview on equality in Tennessee

It's not Frost-Nixon, but it is historic nonetheless. The City Paper's Jeff Woods (who sometimes uses a picture of President John Adams at right for himself) has conducted, as far as I know, the most extensive interview ever on equality issues with a sitting governor of Tennessee.

If you're wondering where the link is, there's not one. The online edition comes out Monday morning. If you're in Nashville, you can pick up a hard copy tonight. I'm not going to post quotations from the interview because the City Paper obviously didn't intend for it to be online at this point, but I'll link to it on Monday.

Woods is relentless in questioning Governor Bill Haslam about HB600, the Special Access to Discriminate law, that the Governor signed. It includes more follow up than I've ever seen on the issue.

Here are a few observations on the piece:

  • Governor Haslam dodges to the marriage issue a few times, but Woods brings the discussion back to job discrimination.
  • The Governor appears resigned to whatever harsh judgment history has in store for his role in letting the bill become law.
  • The interview confirms what we've seen hinted at, namely, that a veto was considered.
The only place where I take issue with the flow of the interview is when the Governor characterizes the Metro Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance as regulation. That's not what the ordinance does, er, um, did before it was nullified. It was a condition for having a contract with Metro, not a requirement for all businesses in Davidson County. Woods could have called him on that distinction, but he, in some ways, does better than addressing that distinction because he continually puts in front of the Governor the issue of discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. He comes as close as anyone has to making a governor of Tennessee confront and weigh that issue against other considerations, like the imaginary business considerations used to justify HB600.

We see the phrase "must read" a great deal these days, and this interview definitely deserves that accolade.

I should also note that this interview, taken together with the "redneck burrito" interview by Tom Humphrey, so many weeks after the Legislature adjourned means that the issue is hanging around. Let the discussion continue!

-Chris Sanders

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