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.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Will Governor Haslam stand up to the bullies in his own party?

In this week's issue of the Memphis Flyer, Copy Editor Joe Brown calls Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to task for whining about the media's coverage of embarassing legislation proposed by his party's government. Haslam recently complained that state and local media favor reporting on the bad bills moving through the Tennessee General Assembly over the "good" legislation supported by his administration. I urge you to read the entire column, but I'll quote some of the best passages.
First of all, the legislature is objectively embarrassing. There is no positive way to spin hate. The party mantra of "job creation" not only rings hollow but plainly stinks when compared to the slate of social laws that are pitched every session. What sort of jobs are you people after? Inquisitors?

A man of your privilege should know that educated people who can be depended upon to solve critical problems in medical research, logistics, and higher management don't respond well to xenophobia and witch-hunt politics. If you want the media to stop reporting this tomfoolery, then stand up for educated, well-mannered people who live here and who are horrified and ashamed by the backward and hateful agenda that apparently equates to success in our General Assembly.

The list of legislation with a conservative social agenda in the 107th Tennessee General Assembly is a long one. TEP has actively opposed a number of these bills that directly affect the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families in Tennessee: the "Special Access to Discriminate Act," the "Police the Potty" bill, the "License to Bully" bill, the Anti-GSA School Clubs bill, and the "Don't Say Gay" bill . . . . the list goes on.

Brown later illustrates in his column how anti-LGBT legislation will harm our state's employers:

Anyone who has worked in management in white-collar industry knows that women and gay people are indispensable. This was once made very real to me when I was starting a business here. The potential partner in the concern was an older man, Southern and brusque. He asked me one day in talks, "What do you think of the gays?" As an open-minded child of the New South, I stalled and stuttered wondering what on earth was coming next, when he added, "If I could hire only gays, that's what I would do. They are the best people I can find." He employed many Tennesseans.

Brown understands that businesses cannot afford for the State of Tennessee to create a hostile environment for women and LGBT people without losing valuable employees. The Tennessee General Assembly and Governor Haslam are providing no incentive for talented LGBT professionals or others who want to live in vibrant, diverse communities to remain in or move into the state. Shouldn't the goal of government be to make our state a more attractive place to live and work for all people?

Brown finally warns Governor Haslam of potential consequences if he fails to keep the legislature in check:
Until you stand up to it or openly acknowledge that your party's agenda has become that of seeking lobbying money and riling up hatred, I will fail to take you or your party seriously. I sure as hell won't become a Democrat, but I will hound superstition and political avarice at every turn, because educated people read this paper and others. Their voice deserves a place in our state. Tennessee is becoming a place where educated entrepreneurs and doctors of international renown would feel unwelcome.

The final outcome of the "Don't Say Gay" bill (HB229/SB049) in the House of Representative is still unknown at this writing. HB229 may represent the Governor's last chance during this legislative session to show some backbone as an executive prepared to lead his party and the State of Tennessee. I hope he is up to the task.

- Jonathan Cole

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