I’ve been procrastinating when it comes to writing this up, just because I’m so embarrassed by what Tennessee and our governor, Bill Haslam, a particular brand of idiot if there ever was one, did this week. John Aravosis has had more stomach for this than I have this week, so I’ll let him fill you in:
The TN Chamber of Commerce, one of the forces behind anti-gay and anti-trans legislation that repeals a gay/trans civil rights ordinance in Nashville, and bans Tennessee cities from passing any civil rights legislation ever again, has just switched gears and is now opposing the bill.
Unfortunately, the Republican governor just signed the law.
Here’s the aforementioned dimwit governor, defending his decision to sign the law:
“I don’t really like the state government telling local governments what to do, but I don’t really feel like local governments should tell businesses what to do either,” Haslam said Tuesday in Chattanooga, where he attended the grand opening of a new Volkswagen plant.
“In this case, we were going beyond what the federal requirements were, and I don’t think many Tennesseans feel like we don’t have enough mandates on businesses from the federal government.”
So the state will instead tell businesses what to do and not do, instead of leaving it to cities, because SMALL GOVERNMENT AND FREEDOMZ and something else I couldn’t understand because he had several of his fingers in his mouth at the time. Never mind the fact that the trend in this nation [in more successful states than *cough* Tennessee] is toward GREATER nondiscrimination protections for ALL employees. Again, Haslam isn’t the brightest bulb in the dim bulb factory, which considered relocating to Tennessee, but they actually care about their gay and lesbian employees and changed their minds.
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, of course, actively lobbied FOR the bill, but now they’ve had a magical change of heart. It seems they’ve suddenly discovered that the only motivations for this bill were pure, backwoods bigotry, and that doesn’t sit well with their bottom lines.
During the lead-up to the bill’s signing, Alcoa was the only board member of the Chamber of Commerce who had an actual come-to-Jesus experience, calling directly on the governor to veto it. Now I’ll let Scott Wooledge at the New Civil Rights Movement take over:
Other companies that control board seats include FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG,Whirlpool, Embraer and United HealthCare.
Having a bit of experience with FedEx, it’s unsurprising that they did so little to encourage a veto. FedEx is dragged into every issue involving equality kicking and screaming. Perhaps if the largest employer in Memphis wasn’t such a pain about most everything, Memphis would be further along in its quest to be a world class city. Here’s FedEx’s statement from before the bill was signed:
FedEx did not lobby for SB632/HB600–it is our policy not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While FedEx is a member of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, we do not support every position proposed by the Chamber.
Whatever. Scott adds a clarification to FedEx’s crap:
This is disingenuous, and bordering on a lie. In fact, FedEx is more than a member, they’re on the board of directors. Which would place them in the position to, ahem, direct the Chamber’s actions. As such they cannot so easily wash their hands of this and say, “We didn’t know what the Chamber was up to!”
Uh yeah. I mean, their HRC rating was only 70 anyway. It’s not like they have a history of trying.
Anyway, this issue is, like I said, so embarrassing. Tennessee has so many wonderful people, gay and straight; it has history, culture, natural beauty, talent, incredible cities, and everything else.
It’s run, unfortunately, by a motley crew of thumb-sucking morons whom the educated segment of the population wouldn’t trust to walk our dogs, much less make important decisions for us.
The good news is that the bill will likely be tied up in litigation for a while and wonderful groups like the Tennessee Equality Project will be on hand to fight their damnedest to fix this. Stay tuned…