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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 27, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 21
Tennessee governor signs bill promoting discrimination into law
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Tennessee governor signs bill promoting discrimination into law

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has ignored the business community and signed into law a bill that wipes out county and city anti-discrimination laws, despite the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry reversing their earlier support and for the bill on May 25.

The measure, SB 632/HB 600, passed the legislature last week and was designed to remove protections for LGBT Tennesseans by prohibiting cities and counties from enacting discrimination bans. Since there are no state protections for sexual orientation or gender identity, the governor's signature of this bill becomes a green light for anti-LGBT discrimination across the state.

'Discrimination should have no place in the Volunteer State and the Chamber's opposition to this law sent a strong signal that corporations are on the leading edge of positive change,' said HRC President Joe Solmonese. 'In contrast, Governor Haslam has put discrimination ahead of the state's values and even business interests by signing this horrible legislation.'

Earlier today, the governor's spokesman stated no decision had been made regarding a veto. It wasn't until support for the bill apparently began to dwindle that he hastily signed it into law.

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, which originally lobbied for the bill, released a statement of opposition on May 25: 'The Tennessee Chamber supports a standard regulatory environment at the state level as opposed to potentially conflicting local regulations covering employment practices. That principle was the only interest the Chamber had in this bill. Because HB600/SB632 has turned into a debate on diversity and inclusiveness - principles which we support - we are now officially opposing this legislation in its present form.'

Major corporations spoke out against the bill and in favor of workplaces that respect and welcome all individuals. Alcoa, FedEx, AT&T, KPMG, UnitedHealth Group, Whirlpool, Comcast, and other companies have publicly disavowed the bill.

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