Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has signed new legislation that reverses all anti-discrimination ordinances passed on the city and county level. The bill was prompted by a recently passed ordinance in Nashville that required that contractors hired by the city did not discriminate against LGBT people. Tennessee state law currently prohibits discrimination based on age, race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions), and disability. Sexual orientation and gender expression are not protected under current state laws.
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce originally supported the bill but, according to The Huffington Post, released a statement just prior to the governor’s signing announcing that they had changed their mind, saying “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.” Many businesses, including Whirlpool, Comcast, DuPont, AT&T, Nissan and more also expressed their disapproval of the new law.
In response to the bill’s passage, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Joe Solmonese released the following statement: “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. In contrast Governor Haslam has put discrimination ahead of the state’s values and even business interests by signing this horrible legislation.”