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.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nashville's Dean says that social legislation affects the business climate

In an interview with The City Paper, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean noted that when businesses consider Nashville, they sometimes have concerns about the social legislation coming from the Tennessee General Assembly.  He contrasts that socially conservative agenda at the state level with the commitment to non-discrimination in Metro Nashville:

You mentioned fielding calls from other cities and people checking out Nashville and how hot it is. When you’re fielding those calls, do you ever hear, “Gee, we’d love to come down, all this social agenda legislation is worrying us.” Do they ever say, “What the hell is going on with the legislature in Tennessee?”
Dean: I won’t mention names, I’m not really at liberty to mention it, but there have been companies who have actually come here who have heard about some of the social legislation and expressed concern. My position has always been, particularly in the area of nondiscrimination, that that absolutely shoots us in the foot. Particularly if you’re a cultural city and an artistic city and a university city. I think Nashville stands on its own. I think people look at Nashville and know that it’s different. Cities have to be friendly, which we are. Cities have to be inclusive, which I think we are, and we try to get more and more inclusive. That’s the way government in cities should operate. But I have heard it. The business [in question] came.

I wonder whether the business-friendly Legislature will get the message.  More correctly, I wonder what it will take for the Legislature to get the message that restrictive social legislation is unattractive for business growth and development.  To give credit, some legislators from both parties do, but not nearly enough.

Until the Legislature gets the message, it will be important for more cities to pass inclusive non-discrimination ordinances like Knoxville and Metro Nashville.  But at some point, we need a fundamental change at the state level.  Corporations are going to have to add their voices to the national media and equality advocates in Tennessee if that is going to take place.  Let's hope it does.

-Chris Sanders

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